Catching up with Generation Next

We checked in with some past winners of Canadian Grocer's Generation Next Awards to find out how their careers have been shaping up
Kristin Laird
Managing Editor
Kristin Laird

Since 2011, Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next Awards have celebrated emerging leaders (under 40) who are shaping Canada’s grocery industry. We checked in with a few past winners to find out how their careers have been shaping up.

Do you know a rising star in the grocery industry? Submit your nomination here by Sept. 15.

Éric Côté
Éric Côté

Éric Côté | 2015 WINNER

Job then: Vice-president of customer experience for Metro in Quebec 
Job now: Vice-president, general manager of Groupe Première Moisson

What has changed in your career since winning the Generation Next Award? 

When I won, I was just promoted to vice-president of customer experience for the Metro banner in Quebec. Subsequently, I transitioned to the role of vice-president of central procurement grocery for Metro. It allowed me to work for both the Quebec and Ontario divisions and collaborate with all banners of Metro, including Jean Coutu after the acquisition in 2018. Finally, since March 2020, I have had the privilege of leading the Première Moisson group, an artisanal bakery in Quebec.

Describe what you do.

I’m responsible for the overall management of the company. We have two divisions: retail and bakery plants. In the retail division, I oversee 23 stores in Quebec, where our breads and viennoiseries are baked fresh daily. I have an exceptional team. Additionally, I oversee two plants in the Greater Montreal Area. One plant, in Vaudreuil-Dorion, specializes in our artisanal bread. The other plant in Baie-d’Urfé is where we craft our baguettes, ciabattas and other varieties. We also have two pastry lines creating our croissants. All these products are distributed to grocery stores in Canada and the United States.

Jacky Ho
Jacky Ho

Jacky Ho | 2017 WINNER

Job then: Store manager, Price Smart Foods, Overwaitea Food Group 
Job now: Regional director, Save-On-Foods & PriceSmart Foods

What has changed in your career since winning the Generation Next Award? 

Since winning the Generation Next Award, Save-On-Foods has given me an opportunity to become a regional director. I am very thankful for this recognition and experience as it has allowed me to continue to grow my career and continue my learning. I currently support the PriceSmart Foods banner and some SaveOn-Foods stores in British Columbia.

What’s your favourite thing about working in this industry? 

There’s no one favourite thing, rather a group of things that make this industry fun and exciting. I love being able to interact with so many people in different areas of our business who are passionate about what they do. There are so many career paths in the grocery industry that allow you to explore and learn. This creates a great opportunity to find something you love and excel at as you journey through your career. The people in this industry have big hearts and I loved seeing how our company and supplier partners came together to support people in need during recent floods in B.C., to get food to areas that were impacted. And, of course, the food! Being able to see, taste and experience different foods is amazing.

Sarah Au
Sarah Au

Sarah Au | 2021 WINNER

Job then: Director of marketing 
Job now: Senior director of marketing

What has changed in your career since winning the Generation Next Award? 

My portfolio now includes Muskoka Brewery, Muskoka Spirits, Vancouver Island Brewing and Rally Beer Co. With the change in consumption habits over the past few years, we are ensuring we have a portfolio to meet those needs. This includes expanding into spirits with canned cocktails for a more premium experience, non-alcoholic beers and tea infusions for those looking to break up their alcohol consumption, and functional beverages crafted for an active lifestyle.

What career advice would you give your younger self? 

  1. Focus less on titles, career “timelines” and what is a “cool brand” to work on, and focus more on how each role can build out your skillset to make you a better marketer and leader.
  2. Find the value in every piece of feedback or criticism – it is intended to make you better! Being defensive is counterproductive.
  3. Don’t be afraid to reach out for mentorship or advice. I have been pleasantly surprised at how generous C-suite and senior-level leaders were with their time and expertise. 

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s August 2023 issue.

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