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Generation Next winners announced

Eight rising stars in the grocery industry recognized at Golden Pencil ceremony

Eight rising stars of the grocery trade were recognized Monday night with Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next Award.

The award, now in its fourth year, goes to suppliers and retailers under 40 who demonstrate leadership, a commitment to working in grocery and involvement in the industry or their community.

“It’s important to acknowledge the achievements of tomorrow’s future leaders, which is why we founded Generation Next,” Canadian Grocer editor Rob Gerlsbeck said.

The eight winners were awarded during the Golden Pencil ceremony at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

The Golden Pencil Awards, which are handed out for lifetime service to the Canadian grocery industry is a partner with Canadian Grocer on the Generation Next Awards.

Six of the eight Generation Next award winners work on the retail side of the business and two are from the supplier side.

Three of the winners run stores, including two managers at Overwaitea Food Group:

Ryan Dennis, 39, got his start bagging groceries at age 17. He’s since worked his way up the ranks at Overwaitea and is now store manager at a Save-on-Foods in North Vancouver.

Rob Belanger, 30, store manager at a Save-on-Foods in Prince George, B.C., is known for his commitment to his staff, customers and community, including helping out the local hockey team and raising money for the hospital.

Independent grocer Neil Kudrinko, the 39-year-old president of Kudrinko’s in Westport, Ont., is among the leaders in North America in store sustainability. An energy efficient retrofit of his supermarket has reduced CO2 equivalent emissions by 46 per cent and saved tens of thousands of dollars.

The other five Generation Next 2014 winners are:

Mike Longo, 38, vice-president of fresh foods at Toronto-area Longo’s is the driving force behind innovative products and partnerships in all fresh food areas, including the launch of meal kits and the opening of full-service restaurants at three Longo’s locations.

David Bell, Houweling’s Tomatoes. As chief marketing officer at tomato supplier Houweling’s in B.C., Bell, 36, has made the difficult task of branding a perishable product look easy, with campaigns such as “Mastery Under Glass” and “Seeds of Tomorrow.”

At 25, Kelly Herdin is the youngest Generation Next winner this year. Herdin is the business analyst of consumer insights at Federated Co-operatives in Saskatoon where she uses data analytics to help Federated better understand and serve customers.

As Walmart Canada’s director of supplier development and merchandising strategy, Jamie Griffiths, 34, has introduced a joint business planning process to help suppliers and Walmart succeed together. As he says, “once the collaboration is there, you can do anything.”

Jennifer Clark, 36, president of First Food Organics, launched her own food company last year. But already her line of organic infant cereals and toddler snacks is sold in over 500 stores in Canada.

You can read more about the winners in the Dec/Jan issue of Canadian Grocer.

The  “Next” in Generation Next stands for New EXciting Thinkers. Winners are chosen by Canadian Grocer’s editors from nominations submitted by people in the grocery industry.

Look for info soon on how to nominate someone deserving you know for a Generation Next 2015 award.

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