CFIG names new president


The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers has announced that Thomas A. Barlow is its new president and CEO, effective June 2013.

Barlow comes from the consumer packaged goods industry, and was a former senior vice-president for Coca-Cola Refreshments, responsible for the vending and wholesale business for North America.

He is a graduate of the University of Alberta and has a masters in business administration from Athabasca University.

In a press release, Barlow said: "I am very excited to have been chosen to lead CFIG. CFIG plays an important role in supporting the independent grocery business in Canada. The independent grocer is an important part of Canadian culture. CFIG members work, live and create jobs in their communities. Building upon a strong foundation to ensure that our members continue to have the opportunity to grow will be my first priority."

Barlow joined the beverage business in 1977 in Vancouver. By 1986 he was named VP and GM of Canada Dry Bottling, Western Canada, an affiliate of Coca-Cola Canada.

From 1989-1998, Barlow was area VP for Alberta and southern British Columbia for Coca-Cola Canada. In 1999 he left Western Canada for Coca-Cola of southern California where he spent two years leading sales and marketing.

Barlow returned to Canada in 2001where he served as president of Coca-Cola Enterprises Canada from 2001 to 2007.

In 2007 he was appointed North American VP of on-premise sales and service for Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. His responsibilities included sales and equipment services, as well as the Coca-Cola Enterprises Customer Development Centers in Tampa, Annapolis, Tulsa and Brampton. Between October 2008 and October 2010, Barlow led strategy development and execution for Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. North American business.

He serves on the board of a number of organizations including: the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) and the Canadian American Business Council (CABC).

Born in Toronto, Barlow will relocate from Altanta, Ga., with his wife, Barbara, and two children, Kyle and Rebecca.

He replaces John Scott, who has served as CFIG president and CEO since 1991.

"Tom brings a fresh and valuable perspective to CFIG based on his extensive background in our industry” said Scott. “He is well positioned to facilitate a new and positive dimension to the benefit of the independent grocer.”

Industry reaction has been swift and positive, with many CFIG members having worked with Barlow during his CPG days.

Nancy Croitoru, CEO and president of the Food and Consumer Products of Canada, said if John Scott had to go, she "couldn’t have chosen someone better than Tom. I’m tremendously excited to have Tom step into this important role.”

Croitoru said she and Barlow have worked together when he was running Coke in Canada. “Tom is professional, strategic and is a pleasure to work with. It is great for the manufacturing sector to know that someone running an important group of our retail trading partners comes understanding the issues and opportunities we all face. I look forward to a continued strong relationship between FCPC and CFIG, with Tom now at the helm.”

Many praised Barlow's past experience as being integral to the role ahead of him. “It is great to have someone with Tom’s experience and knowledge join CFIG and continue the legacy and contributions of this important partner and association,” said Diane Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada. “RCC and its members look forward to working with Tom in his new role and advance the collective goals of Canadian grocery retailers.”

For CFIG members, like Anthony Longo, president and CEO of Longo Bros. Fruit Market, they were pleased to have someone who could related to the issues they face. Longo said, "Tom is a great choice for president of CFIG. His experience with a world class organization coupled with Tom’s demonstrated passion for helping the Independent win, bodes well for the future of CFIG and the independent grocer in Canada. We at Longo’s are looking forward to working with Tom and his team.”

Francois Bouchard of Ottawa's Country Grocer added, "Tom was very invovled with the board, the AMC and many aspects of our association. He was even presented with a lifetime member award a few years ago. It will be nice to have him back in Canada."

Cori Bonina of Stong's Market in Vancouver, who was a member of the search committee on finding Scott's successor, echoed Bouchard's sentiments, "I can’t think of a better leader to champion CFIG and the Independent grocer during these challenging times...With his sharp strategic mind and his strength for problem solving – it is without a doubt an exciting time for CFIG and the independent grocer."

Mike Coleman, director of procurement and VP of Coleman Group of Companies, in Corner Brook, N.L., spoke of Barlow’s strong industry ties.  “He will have instant credibility with independent grocers, and with the trade.” He added that Barlow’s previous role with Coca Cola, “Tom demonstrated a good understanding of the challenges of independent grocers, and an appreciation for the balance that a strong independent sector brings to the marketplace.”

His background in CPG, and having worked his way up at Coca-Cola, will also serve the association well, says Christy McMullen, of Summerhill Market in Toronto. "He is a great problem solver.  The fact that he has worked throughout North America is also important as independents face different challenges based on their location. I also appreciate that Coca-Cola has been around for many years and has been able to stay innovative, a major challenge that is facing the independent with so many of the large box stores entering in the grocery market."

Meanwhile, Scott Mitchell of Market Street Vulcan in Vulcan Alta., noted that Barlow is as comfortable talking with retailers in their backrooms as he is in the boardroom. “This genuine quality that Tom has to recognize and identify what is happening at the grassroots level for Canadian independent grocers and communicate this to industry/government will be the key to CFIG’s future success.”

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