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Get to know the 2023 Generation Next winners

Meet the grocery industry's rising stars
gen next 2023
Top Row: Hussain Bandali (Walmart Canada); Jeff Robertson (Bimbo Canada); Courtney Robertson (Federated Co-Op). Bottom Row: Nick Derkach (Metro); Maral Cheleyeva (Loblaw); Rameez Gulam (Unilever Canada). Photography by Mike Ford

To meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, the grocery industry needs a pipeline of dynamic young leaders. Lucky for us, the industry is brimming with bright, young talent. Want proof? Check out our 2023 Generation Next winners. 

These 27 rising stars – all under age 40 – are making their mark across all areas of the business from store operations to sales to sustainability and more – and they’re just getting started! 

Below, meet the up-and-coming leaders who are helping redefine grocery.

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VP, Revenue Management and Category Management 

Only nine months after joining A. Lassonde in December 2021 as a revenue management director, Philippe Archambault was promoted to vice-president of revenue management and category management, overseeing 24 colleagues. “Lassonde has been growing really fast over the past couple of years, so they hired me to bring a higher standard in revenue management to the toolbox for the key accounts,” Archambault explains. He has succeeded in democratizing that toolbox, giving his team access to vital financial and market data that improves their decision-making capabilities. Archambault joined Lassonde after seven years at Labatt. Among his accomplishments at that company was work on a pilot test to revamp Couche-Tard’s cold room where most beer is sold, a move that led to category growth and an improved shopping experience for consumers. In the food industry, “every decision we make has an impact for the millions of Canadians who shop daily. That motivates me to make sure we do everything with the highest standards.” Archambault hopes to grow in his current role and learn more about supply chain and production. In the longterm, “I see myself leading an even larger team.”


Manager, Human Resources Canada 

Nieko Arnini’s career in the grocery industry began right after graduating from York University, when she joined Loblaw Companies Limited as an HR project co-ordinator. She has since acquired experience in multiple disciplines within HR business partnering such as analytics, banking and retail, which she brought with her to Conagra Brands after joining the company in November 2022. Despite her short tenure, Arnini has established trust among her colleagues. “With every interaction, I listen and show up as my authentic self,” Arnini explains. “That is key in building trust with your business partners in the early stages, and the rest will follow over time.” Arnini’s communication skills have also bolstered her credibility within the company. “It’s important to know when to speak up and when to listen and absorb,” she says. Arnini’s journey at Conagra isn’t an independent one. As the head of her company’s culture board and an executive sponsor of the diversity and inclusion council, Arnini spearheads volunteer opportunities to foster connections with the community and a sense of belonging among employees. “Building a strong culture is an important part of any organization,” she explains. “I am proud to be leading a group that shows passion and commitment towards building that at Conagra.”


Senior Brand Manager, Snacks Business 

The increasing responsibility Julia Baldaro has earned at General Mills is impressive when you consider she only turned 26 this year. She ascended to her current role in September, when promoted for a second time since joining the food company in 2019. One of her biggest achievements? Having spearheaded a holistic margin management review. “We were trying to fix processes that had been in place for decades,” she explains. “It required working with team members across North America.” The result of her hard work has led to cost-savings for the company in the short term of more than $4.6 million, and in the long term of more than $30 million. She has enjoyed problem solving since childhood. “I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, escape rooms all that,” says Baldaro, who earned a bachelor of commerce at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. Her impact at General Mills extends to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). Baldaro co-created the Canadian chapter of Betty’s Family, General Mills’ global LGBTIQA+ employee resource group for helping employees be better allies. “Many people have come to us [who have] a child coming out and [are] in need of resources,” she says adding, they “tell us how thankful they are for this group.”


Senior Director, Store Layout & Experience 

Since joining Walmart 12 years ago, Hussain Bandali continues to demonstrate his prowess in developing and executing highimpact initiatives at the retail giant. As a buyer, he launched the Blackweb electronics brand in Canada, which then rolled out across Walmart International in South Africa, England and the United States. He also executed a new merchandising strategy that helped popularize several key grocery categories. Bandali was responsible for developing three prototype stores in Ontario that are now the basis of Walmart remodels across the country, with 130 remodel completions expected by the end of the fiscal year. In leading the store space and design teams, he is currently helping ensure Walmart stores are built and renovated to support the evolving needs of Canadian customers well into the future. “In 2019, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Walmart International program where I lived and worked in China and was able to immerse myself in all things digital,” he says, noting that this was a great opportunity to see first-hand how innovative retail can be. “Now we’re working on using digital to solve key customer problems,” says Bandali. 


Senior Manager, Communications, Learning & Development 

Allison Benner says being part of an organization that “walks the talk” when it comes to putting team members first, has enabled her to roll out various initiatives that are helping Longo’s staff feel more connected and valued. Her role in developing and executing a comprehensive communications strategy is not only enabling better employee engagement, but is fostering a more collaborative corporate culture as well. Her current role in facilitating allyship training is helping cultivate a more inclusive environment, too. “I took the online training and converted it into a PowerPoint presentation that had more retail application and could better fit within a manager’s physical workflow,” says Benner. “We’ve also moved our town halls virtually to accommodate those who can’t attend in person.” Beyond the boardroom, Benner brought Longo’s merchant and service awards online during the pandemic, making them more interactive and fun. Drawing from the popular U.S. docuseries Humans of New York, she recently introduced a “Filling Your Basket” initiative that profiles Longo’s executives so employees can get to know the people behind their titles. “It’s about humanizing the executives and giving employees a better way to connect,” she says.


Senior Manager, Analytical & Data Platforms 

In only three years at Loblaw, 29-year-old Maral Cheleyeva has already made a huge impact in leveraging technology to improve operations and shopper experience. In recognizing that data is power, she created a real-time dashboard that converts customer information collected in-store and online into valuable insights that can be leveraged to improve decisions around dayto-day store operations, peak season plans and promotional offers. Cheleyeva and her team also developed an innovative tool that allows Loblaw’s entire loyalty business to monitor vast amounts of data in real-time across complex systems. “Instead of working in silos, we created a single pane of glass to bring all that information into one place,” she says, noting that this enables an end-to-end view of the customer experience and a better perspective on how to improve it. With previous jobs in finance, accounting and communications, Cheleyeva thrives on the fast pace of the grocery retail environment and the satisfaction of solving complex issues through technology. “In IT, there is always a new challenge and that keeps me passionate about what I do every day,” she says.


Senior Key Account Manager 

Ramzi Cotran’s love and passion for the Mars brand dates to his childhood, when his grandmother always had Mars chocolate bars tucked away at home or in her purse, ready to brighten his day. He joined Mars Wrigley in May 2022, after stints at Reckitt Benckiser, where he introduced innovative product bundles online, and Kraft Heinz Canada, where he launched products in the refrigerated salad dressing portfolio that reinvigorated the category and led to increased market share. Cotran says his current role mirrors events from his childhood in Switzerland, where Friday nights were rich in problem-solving while playing board games and completing 1,000-piece puzzles with his siblings. “Now, I navigate through intricate business challenges, each day being like a puzzle where the objective is to develop strategies that resonate deeply with our consumers.” He’s been instrumental in revitalizing the chewing gum category at Mars Wrigley to pre-pandemic levels, and has played a role in enhancing customer satisfaction through additional in-store displays, signage and placement. Cotran envisions a career at Mars Wrigley where continuous learning, personal growth and infinite possibilities can be intertwined with his CPG journey.


Senior Brand Manager, Fine Cheese 

As senior brand manager of Lactalis Canada’s fine cheese portfolio, Natalie DeJong says her responsibility for ensuring the company presents consumers with the right offerings in the right formats is even more important in today’s challenging economic environment. DeJong, who focuses on everything from brand strategy and communications to budgeting and long-term planning, notes that “in inflationary times, people may not be taking as many vacations, but they tend to try and create special moments at home, and the brands I work on are really able to elevate those moments.” Over the last two years, DeJong has worked on a Balderson brand renovation that included expanding the portfolio outside of cheddar and Gouda, new packaging design and positioning, and a relaunch of Galbani fresh mozzarella in a variety of package sizes. Though the overall deli cheese segment is flat, Lactalis Canada brands are up in tonnage and dollars this year. “It’s a phenomenal accomplishment,” she says. DeJong would love to continue her career in marketing, managing larger and more complex brands in the fast-paced CPG industry. “The brands I’ve worked on bring joy to so many Canadians.”


Manager, Labour Management 

Like many young, bright minds in the sector, Nick Derkach got his start in grocery with a high school job. Hired by Ultra Food and Drug (now Metro) in Dundas, Ont., he continued his employment while earning a bachelor of engineering and master of engineering design at McMaster University. He expected his degree would take him elsewhere, but he became a full-time grocery clerk after university and then assistant store manager, while participating in projects such as the rollout of a new cash register system. Derkach moved into labour management in 2016 and since 2018 has overseen the department for the Metro banner in Ontario. Putting his engineering education to use, Derkach helped conceive and implement a science-based approach to optimizing labour allocation for every department in a store. “Prior to my role, labour allocation was about looking at sales and staffing from the previous year without really understanding where improvements could be made,” explains Derkach. He conducted time studies on tasks across the company’s departments, leading to the creation of Metro’s labour planner. The tool has boosted employee productivity by 32% over seven years. “Metro has allowed me to grow within the company,” says Derkach. “My goal is to keep progressing.”


Sourcing Manager – Primary Packaging 

Garima Dua didn’t just find a career at Maple Leaf Foods – she found herself. Upon graduating from the University of Waterloo with a degree in chemical engineering, “I self-identified as an introvert,” says Dua. Then, in 2016, she landed a spot in Maple Leaf Foods’ Leadership Track Graduate Program and spent a year in Saskatoon in the role of production team lead. “As I was learning how to best lead people, I was learning about myself and realized I’m anything but an introvert,” she says. “That was a big ‘a-ha’ moment.” Embracing her true extrovert nature, she has built strong partnerships with packaging suppliers, helping bring new products and packaging concepts to market in support of Maple Leaf’s sustainability endeavours. She also became the fastest certified “Six Sigma Black Belt” in the company’s history, leading four cross-functional improvement projects in manufacturing to completion in less than 24 months. Those projects delivered more than $2 million in savings and significant waste elimination. But Dua isn’t limiting her future at Maple Leaf Foods to positions on the manufacturing side. She’d also like to work in other parts of the business. “With learning and agility, skills can be developed, so functions I’ve never worked in before, like sales, I’m eager to try.”


Chief Development Officer 

Casey Eleusiniotis co-founded Jonluca Enterprises in 2010 when he was just 24, and over the next decade grew it from a distributor of organic ice cream in the Toronto area to a national player with a 200-page catalogue of better-for-you products. With a 77,000-sq.-ft. tri-temperature facility in Vaughan, Ont., a facility in Burnaby, B.C. as well as a 16-truck fleet, the company was servicing more than 2,500 retailers across Canada by 2020. Earlier this year, Eleusiniotis merged his business with Neal Brothers Foods to create Jonluca Neal, the country’s largest, family-owned natural food distributor that boasts some 145 employees. Often, mergers tend to be undertaken to realize cost-savings through employee layoffs, but not here. “We knew the strength of putting our distribution together would be huge and allow us to invest,” says Eleusiniotis. “In fact, we just hired more people!” Eleusiniotis has always taken a peoplefirst approach to entrepreneurship. On succeeding when so many startups fail, he says, “we made friends and worked alongside people, listening and learning in earnest.”


Content Manager 

In the two years since joining Calgary Co-op, Emilie Engerdahl has made a big impact. For instance, she played an instrumental role in the implementation and launch of Calgary Co-op’s new app and bonus cash rewards program, which was part of the retail organization’s significant digital transformation and modernized membership program. Engerdahl also led the implementation of a new CRM environment, as well as the redesign and relaunch of Calgary Co-op’s corporate websites, reflecting the retail co-operative’s rebrand and providing members with an improved website experience. She also manages day-to-day content for Calgary Co-op’s food, fuel, liquor, cannabis and pharmacy businesses, ensuring the content and recipes inspire members and deliver results. As a digital native, Engerdahl thrives on challenging the status quo. “What inspires me is finding creative efficiencies and ways to deliver an exceptional experience that’s different from what we’ve previously done,” she says, adding that the collaborative mentality of Calgary Co-op is another inspiration. “We collectively have our sights set on where we’re headed … and to be given the runway to try new things, experiment and innovate has been amazing.” Engerdahl plans to continue expanding in the digital space, enhancing her skills and bringing forward new digital trends and ideas for the grocery sector. 


Head of Ice Cream 

When it came to successfully launching Unilever’s Ice Cream Now digital platform in Canada—which allows customers to order ice cream with their grocery or meal delivery or through a delivery app – Rameez Gulam was just the person for the job. Having served roles in supply chain, customer development and strategy development since joining Unilever Canada in 2009, Gulam has end-to-end experience at the company. Now equipped with a wealth of knowledge, Gulam is quick and eager to share his learnings with interns, students and new employees to Unilever Canada. “I love the energy, passion and fresh new ideas [they] bring to Unilever,” he explains. “Whether it’s engaging in case studies, industry projects, networking events or grocery and consumer goods nights at partner universities and colleges, the experiences are always rewarding.” As Gulam progresses along his career path, he says coaching others will always play an important role in his work. “I would like to continue to mentor students, interns and young professionals entering our field so that they can gain exposure to how dynamic and exciting the future of consumer goods and grocery retail is in Canada.”


Founder & CEO 

Leila Keshavjee grew up in the food industry – her father has a distribution company and would take her to trade shows around the globe – but it wasn’t a career she envisioned for herself. That changed while she was at university studying kinesiology and recognized a gap in the market: healthy, tasty frozen treats. After graduating in 2016, Keshavjee founded Happy Pops, a brand of all-natural ice pops. With her commitment to health and focus on diverse consumer preferences, Keshavjee has developed and launched more than 40 Happy Pops flavours and spearheaded the creation of a non-dairy fudge pop and creamsicle aimed at vegans and lactose-intolerant consumers. A recent innovation is all-natural, dairy-free and nut-free kulfis. Starting out at farmers markets and corporate events, Happy Pops are now sold in stores across Canada. Keshavjee’s focus on safe treats has led to partnerships with Canada’s Wonderland, Ripley’s Aquarium and Toronto Zoo. Last summer, Happy Pops collaborated with Sesame Street to bring two exclusive flavours – Elmo Berry and Big Bird Orange – to Canada’s Wonderland. A partnership with Mattel is currently in the works. “What’s really helped us is collaboration and I think collaborations are so key,” says Keshavjee. “It’s been a way to gain market share, work with brands that align with our values, and do unique things.”


Store Manager 

In working his way from produce clerk to store manager, Paolo Leone has demonstrated his passion for the grocery business and the people who work within it. When, at the age of 26, he had the opportunity to step in during the extended absence of his store manager, his financial acumen and leadership potential shone through. For a year, he managed the busy location, while simultaneously keeping his assistant manager and produce department duties. What sets Leone apart even more is his ability to develop potential in others. As a mentor in the company’s Department Manager Training (DMT) program, Leone provides his mentees with practical opportunities to apply their learning while supporting them throughout the process. His open-door policy, genuine concern for his team’s well-being, and willingness to lend a helping hand have fostered a sense of unity and trust. “It goes back to when I started and how having a great mentor expedited my growth,” say Leone. “When I see someone up-and-coming who has a passion for the business or their particular department, I take it very seriously.”


Senior Data Scientist 

Nicole Lin grew up in a traditional Chinese environment where, she says, women were expected to be quiet and obedient. When she realized her aptitude for computer programming – and the dominance of males in this area of study – her mission became clear: to challenge the status quo. Since moving to Canada in 2016, she has made good on that vow by building a successful career in computer sciences. Lin joined Loblaw in 2019, where she has been using her skills to target complex questions. Case in point, she developed the grocer’s first promotion optimization tool, which leverages data, machine learning and business strategies to predict inflation and market trends. Based on these predictions, Loblaw can balance offering reasonable prices for shoppers while maintaining a profit acceptable to the company’s shareholders. “In using technology, I would like to close the gap between academia and industry so we can make better decisions,” she says. Lin also advocates for helping other women succeed in STEM fields by leading career growth sessions as part of Loblaw’s Women in Technology group and mentoring data scientists and co-op students. 


Associate Director, Sobeys – National 

Savith Miranda counts himself as fortunate to have worked in multiple roles at Kraft Heinz Canada since joining in 2005 – from customer service and project management to his current position of sales director for the company’s product portfolio at Sobeys. Miranda is proud of the role he played in moving Kraft Heinz’s entire Sobeys team to Halifax in 2018 to build upon its strong relationship with the grocer. The partnership has strengthened through his work on sponsorship programs with Sobeys for events such as the 2022 Winter Olympics. “Now, we’re trying to build a bigger and better program for 2024 for the Summer Olympics,” he says. Miranda also executed a first-ever partnership with Grocery Foundation Atlantic, in which Kraft Heinz donated $1 from every tin of Maxwell House coffee sold at Sobeys. The effort raised just under $64,000 for the children’s charity. A couple years ago, Miranda joined the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, “something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m passionate about.” Kraft Heinz has been immensely supportive, allowing him leave to do his training. In the future, Miranda would like to take on international assignments at Kraft Heinz, “to see how different areas of the world operate, so I can be a better leader in the future.”


Store Manager 


When Brooke Nelson-St Dennis moved to Save-OnFoods’ Brocklehurst location in Kamloops, B.C., she knew the store could be making a stronger first impression. “I believe the entrance reflects how much a manager cares about their store and customers,” she says. Additional merchandising space was created for buggy starters, skid drops and impulse sales items. Natural foods were given an improved spotlight. The “team effort” led to a sales increase this year of almost 12% versus 2022. Nelson St-Dennis, who was previously the store manager at Save-On-Foods Lansdowne in Kamloops, first joined the Pattison Food Group-owned chain in her native Powell River, B.C. back in 2008. “Success is an attitude,” is the motto Nelson-St Dennis lives by. “I am a firm believer that your attitude sets the tone for everything,” she says. “And if you believe you can make it happen, you will make it happen.” A Canadian Grocer 2023 Star Women in Grocery Award winner, Nelson-St Dennis was also recognized with a 2022 Leadership Excellence Award from Pattison and recently became co-lead of the company’s DEI initiatives, taking the reins from Julie Dickson Olmstead. “I feel at my best when I am able to support my peers,” she says.

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Senior Manager, DC Automation & Continuous Improvement 

Tatiana Njensi says her latest assignment at Metro is the biggest of her career. She’s leading the transition to the grocer’s automated distribution centre (DC) in Terrebonne, Que., which opened in November. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Njensi says of the 600,000-sq.-ft. facility, which cost about $420 million to build. The transition, which will take several months, is complex because older DCs are being moved into the new DC. Njensi is co-ordinating between several departments to ensure a smooth and successful transition. Njensi has been involved in the project since its start, from making the business case for Metro’s first automated DC in the province to working on its design and operational requirements. “I like having problems to solve,” she says. “It brings me a lot of excitement to have to deal with such a complex project.” Njensi would eventually like to take her distribution network knowledge to store level at Metro. “I have expertise on the distribution side; my goal is to acquire more expertise at the store operations level.”


Director of National Sales

Kind Canada’s business is set to exceed all 2023 targets. Robin Poulain deserves a lot of the credit, having last year led the team in winning a big new discount retailer as well as taking two major broker-managed mass and grocery clients in-house. As a result, Kind is on track to double those businesses. In Poulain, the company also has its first director-level talent working with those clients and developing strategic growth plans. Although it might be scary to challenge the status quo, “progress over perfection” is Poulain’s motto. “Change can help get you to a better place, even if you might not get there tomorrow. We celebrate shortterm wins for long-term gain.” Having joined Kind in 2018, after making a name for herself at Irving Consumer Products and Ferrero, Poulain also leads all-hands-on deck quarterly team field days and champions Kind’s internal recognition program, Kindos. “One of my favourite quotes is from Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” says Poulain. “That motivates how I want to lead every day.”


Food Business Systems Planning & Design Manager 

During her career at Federated Co-op, Courtney Robertson has excelled in finding efficiencies, preparing colleagues for change, launching services and developing best practices. Within the food department, Robertson created an intranet that gives employees access to training and communications to perform their jobs better. She also worked on the online grocery ordering platform, which has higher than average e-commerce penetration in the markets where it has launched. Robertson also developed a guide documenting best practices in pricing after noticing that people didn’t understand how supplier costs, retail costs and suggested retail price fit together. The standardized pricing guide shows employees how to price items, set costs and calculate margins more efficiently. In her current role as food business systems planning and design manager, Robertson is working on a product information management solution that will centralize product data to make it easier for retailers and customers to know what to order. “I like to say I thrive in chaos and can help people calm their worries or calm their anxieties by being able to help them make sense of a complex situation,” she says. As for the future, “I don’t have a roadmap. I’m open to something that is exciting.”


Director, Environment and Sustainability 

Since joining Bimbo Canada in March 2021, Jeff Robertson has helped implement more than 100 sustainability initiatives, identifying opportunities to reduce water, electricity and natural gas use, and food waste within the company’s 17 plants. “We now have more Energy Star Certified industrial facilities than any company in Canada, in any industry,” he explains. Robertson uses a tailored approach to achieve greater uptake of sustainability initiatives, helping Bimbo Canada get closer to its goal of achieving net zero carbon by 2050. “If I’m talking to a numbers person, I talk about how reducing our energy use can save the business money and reduce our carbon taxes,” Robertson says. “If I’m talking to someone who’s invested in our social impact work, I speak to our community investment programs, the social justice aspect of climate change and how our emissions truly have a global impact.” His passion for the environment is what fuels Robertson forward in his work. “At Bimbo Canada, you’ll often hear the phrase ‘no one is coming’, meaning it’s up to us,” he says. “That’s how I feel about climate change and that’s a big source of motivation for me.”


Store Manager 

While in high school, Mark Salhany was hired as a grocery clerk, tasked with stocking shelves at a Save-On-Foods in Langley, B.C. He’s never looked back, progressing through the grocery chain’s ranks as an assistant operations manager/supervisor, merchandising manager and assistant store manager. Six years ago, Salhany was promoted to the role of store manager at Save-OnFoods’ Walden location in Calgary. Helping grow the business in what is a newer market for the company, “has been a highlight of my career,” he says. Leading the store during the pandemic was a “humbling experience” and an accomplishment, which involved ensuring the safety of more than 100 team members and making the best decisions for customers, Salhany adds. His store has seen an almost 6% sales increase this year, despite the challenges of inflation and supply chain disruptions. “Working with my team and seeing them succeed in their roles and achieving their career aspirations inspires me to continuously push for greater things within my store,” says Salhany. He’d like to eventually have a senior management position at Save-On-Foods, “where I’ll have an impact on the future of the company.”


Business Development Manager 

Since joining Kruger shortly after graduating from the University of Guelph in commerce, leadership and organizational management in 2014, Ryan Scanzano has handled accounts including Metro Ontario, Food Basics, Rabba and Longo’s. As a senior account rep, he doubled the business of his portfolio in two years with an attentive, personable and solutions-oriented mindset. Likewise, relationships he has cultivated on larger accounts – Metro Ontario and Food Basics – in his current role as business development manager have flourished. That resulted in Kruger, for instance, being the first non-food vendor to participate in Metro Ontario’s e-comm program. “While we recommend and work on promotional campaigns, it’s toilet tissue at the end of the day, and retailers want to put a face to the name,” says Scanzano, whose desire for human connection is reflected in bottom-line business results. Scanzano also works collaboratively with team members to tackle challenges, a skill he started developing in his youth playing competitive hockey and other team sports. “Sports and business have something in common: adversity, and that creates lessons in resiliency, keeping positive and remembering the big picture.” As for his future goals, “I’d like to handle a national account–that’s what I am working toward.”


Manager, Procurement 

Innovative thinking is how Chantelle Scola navigated supply chain disruptions during COVID-19 and the 2021 British Columbia floods. She led the procurement team to come up with solutions such as rerouting trucks through the United States to re-enter Canada. “The successful execution of these strategic measures mitigated shorts of essential products to our customers,” Scola explains. She applies that same innovation to her sustainability efforts at UNFI Canada, which have helped the company reduce its food waste production by more than 50%. Scola also inspires others to give back to the community by co-ordinating a holiday volunteer initiative through UNFI Canada, assembling hundreds of holiday hampers for women’s shelters and food banks filled with essential products the company carries. “We encourage and solicit the involvement of others within our organization to join us in spreading the warmth of the season through acts of kindness and generosity,” Scola says. Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Scola has twice been a recipient of UNFI’s annual Circle of Excellence, recognizing individuals who have gone above and beyond that year. “[The award] serves as a powerful affirmation of my contributions and a stepping-stone in my career progression,” Scola explains.


Chief of Staff & Head of Corporate Strategy & Development 

Julie van Wyck’s stellar track record as a management consultant in the consumer packaged goods and retail industries made her a prime candidate to support Empire’s CEO Michael Medline as chief of staff. Since joining the company in 2022, van Wyck has played an essential role in advancing corporate strategy, while helping drive critical business key performance indicators. She was also instrumental in preparing the CEO to testify before a parliamentary committee in Canada’s House of Commons on grocery inflation. In working with senior executives across the organization, van Wyck also plays a vital role in identifying, assessing and supporting opportunities for business growth. Her vision is a driving factor behind the development of the company’s corporate venture strategy, including the creation of a robust governance structure, dedicated internal champions and a discerning approach to investment opportunities. “Retail is fast-moving and tangible,” she says. “When I came to Sobeys, it was motivating knowing that what we’re doing is helping feed families every day.” Despite her busy schedule, van Wyck is committed to mentoring others in the organization to foster the growth of emerging business leaders. 


Senior Omni Merchant, Commercial Bread 

Hailey Vasyliw started her career at Walmart Canada in a finance role, supporting health and wellness, but quickly realized her real passion lay in developing strategies and driving business decisions that would have a big impact. “What I love about the merchandising side of the business is getting to see programs come to life,” says Vasyliw, who has spent eight years in the fresh foods side of Walmart. “It’s all about understanding the customer and figuring out where the opportunities are.” To that end, she has done wonders in enhancing Walmart’s commercial bread offering. In addition to managing the entire assortment of packaged breads at more than 400 Walmart locations, she played a critical role in relaunching its private-label offering. In moving from a single bread supplier to multiple, she helped Walmart maintain a competitive advantage while enabling promotions for customers. She also partnered with Walmart supplier Bimbo in a ”give back” program that donated meals to Canadians during tough economic times. “I really enjoy working somewhere where I can push the envelope and make changes across the industry,” says Vasyliw.

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s December 2023/January 2024 issue.

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