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2023 Star Women in Grocery Award Winner Ruth-Anne Hunsberger (Q&A)

Rising Star
Ruth-Anne Hunsberger
Ruth-Anne Hunsberger

Ruth-Anne Hunsberger

Business Unit Director, Cereal
General Mills Canada

How did you get your start in the industry? 

I had a front-row seat to CPG marketing growing up, where my mom had a successful CPG career and shared her day-to-day with me at the dinner table. She exposed me to the importance of data-driven strategic storytelling and shared her love for innovation and understanding consumer behaviour—and it sounded fun! She sometimes used my friends and me to test out new product concepts. 

I graduated with Honours from the Richard Ivey School of Business in 2013. A career in brand management felt like the natural choice. I loved that it would combine my analytical skills, creative decision making and problem-solving abilities, along with my passion for leading teams. After a brief internship with Unilever in hair care, I transitioned to General Mills full-time in 2013 to work on food, leading the Pillsbury business. With food being something every Canadian—at all stages and ages experiences, purchases regularly, and emotionally connects with—it’s an amazing way to have impact while driving business results. 

What is the best part of your job?

Driving business impact while learning every day is the best part of being a business unit director with General Mills. I own the P&L, running my business unit as its general manager. I have the opportunity to set the vision, lead fantastic teams, and build iconic brands—all with an entrepreneurial spirit combined with the backing of tier 1, CPG resources and talent. I appreciate how every day is different, and that there are continual opportunities to learn and grow and make a difference. 

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

All of us in the grocery industry understand that change is constant, and that agility and change management are skills that we grow and strengthen over time and through experience. Four months before my maternity leave, General Mills announced a restructuring of the North American Retail division and Canada was significantly impacted. The strategic goal was to strengthen Canada’s integration with the U.S. business, and I was moved from my business unit director role on Yoplait yogurt, to the Canada How We Work Interim Lead. In this role, I was asked to re-wire our processes, structures and teams to be more closely dialed in with our U.S. Counterparts. I had a clear understanding of what the end goal was, but how we would achieve that close partnership and collaboration was ambiguous, and I only had four months to make it happen. It was also important for me to end my role (prior to my maternity leave) on a high, and to take care of my team and people while I was there to do so. I set bold priorities, built out a robust four-month plan, achieved organizational alignment on that plan, and then connected across the border with new U.S. contacts to build relationships and, ultimately, map out how our teams would work. By the end of four months, nearly all of our processes had been revamped, leadership was aligned to the vision and roll-out plan, and Canada was well-positioned within North America, with clear direction, resources and tools to succeed. It was a lot—a new role outside of the familiar business unit world, during a sensitive time for the business and its people, all while expecting a baby! Accepting the challenge for what it was and pursuing progress daily is what led to the results we ultimately achieved as Team Canada and Team North America. This structure change has contributed to General Mills outpacing the average food company stock performance, and helped set the foundation for how we work and achieve together today.

What is the proudest moment in your career?

I believe that every role I’m in is the best one for me at the time, and for that reason it’s hard to choose just one standout moment. When I think of the themes from proudest moments throughout my career, they include: quickly building a team culture of high performance, candor and trust; setting a vision with bold goals for the team and business; and leading with a bias for action to navigate ambiguity and unlock growth. 

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

There is nothing better than spending time with my 19-month-old, Nora, and my husband Adam. I love the outdoors, interval training, fashion, cooking and travel.  

What's a fun fact about you?

I’m part of a group that holds a Guinness World Record for participating in the largest outdoor beach volleyball tournament: the Heatwave for SickKids Beach Volleyball Tournament in 2014. We put in a team from General Mills, alongside nearly 1000 other playersand together, this group still holds the world record! 

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you to the Star Women in Grocery Award team for the great honour of being one of the 2023 award recipients. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of an esteemed group of high performing women in the grocery Industry.     

Click here for the full list of 2023 Star Women in Grocery award winners. 

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