2022 Star Women in Grocery winner Alison Mcfarlane (Q&A)
Private Label Product Manager
How did you get into the grocery business?
It was a very natural progression. My dad has a long career in grocery retail operations and learning from his stories gave me an appreciation for the business. Towards the end of my education, I decided to focus my thesis on studying the Canadian grocery industry, where I found myself interested in looking at different food trends and new developments, which solidified [grocery] was where I wanted to start my career. I was lucky enough to start my career at Farm Boy and have been there ever since!
Biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The recent supply chain issues have brought forward a number of challenges that have really forced us to come together as a team and adapt. There has been a lot of time and effort put into the growth of the private-label brand in recent years, however, with raw material shortages, increased lead times and in some cases, indefinite hold on products, we’ve had to take a hard look at our processes and continue to adapt them, working with suppliers to understand each situation and plan accordingly. I’m appreciative to be working with a team of people that are constantly looking for solutions and creative ways to overcome challenges.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
Trust yourself and your intuition. Make decisions based on the information available at the time and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way, as long as you learn from them.
What is your proudest career moment?
When I joined Farm Boy, I was tasked with building a launch process for our new products. As a process that involves a number of different teams across the company, it was a big undertaking. Building it through a new software system allowed us to continue to expand our private-label portfolio at a faster pace and work on hundreds of products at the same time as a very small team. Now we’re launching 250 to 300 products every year, and the software system has expanded to many other teams in the company to support their own internal processes. Looking back and seeing how far we’ve come in the past couple of years has been very rewarding.
What do you like most about your job?
There are so many facets about my job that I like but, at the end of the day, the most rewarding part is watching customers shop our products to feed their families and friends. Playing a role in that and doing it with a team of people that are just as passionate about these products makes it that much more enjoyable.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
When everything shut down due to the pandemic, it made me reflect on where and how I spend my time outside of work. When everything was closed, and being outdoors was one of the only options, I realized how much I love being outdoors – running, hiking, walking. With making it a priority every day, I find I have more energy and a clearer headspace throughout the week.
Click here for the full list of 2022 Star Women in Grocery award winners.