OFG president announces retirement


Overwaitea Food Group president Steve van der Leest has announced he will be retiring in March.

In a memo dated Jan. 26, van der Leest says that during his almost four decades with OFG, he’s had the “privilege of spending the last 15 years in the ‘best job in the world’, as president of the Overwaitea Food Group.”

The company has not yet announced who will be replacing van der Leest.

Van der Leest got his start in the industry in the late 1960s as a part-time grocery bagger at the Woodward’s Food Floors, where he quickly moved up to join the store management team.

He then operated an independent supermarket in High River, Alta., in the 1970s. During that time he became involved with Associated Grocers voluntary co-op and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

At age 34, van der Leest became president of the Associated Grocers, where it attracted the interest of business mogul Jim Pattison. In 1990, the two worked together to privatize the company and bring it under the umbrella of the OFG, where van der Leest was responsible for supply chain as executive vice-president. He was appointed president of OFG in 1997.

Throughout his career, van der Leest has been active in food associations including the Canadian Distributors Grocers Institute, Food Marketing Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

John Scott, president and CEO of CFIG, said that van der Leest has been a catalyst for CFIG’s growth and played “a pivotal role in inviting new members to join in the wake of the CCGD dissolution last year. He was always available to provide advice, serve on committees including long term strategic planning and governance, and ensure that his people were fully engaged when it was appropriate.”

For his dedication to the industry and community, he has received Golden Pencil Award and the CFIG Life Member Designation as an industry builder. Most recently received the 2011 Santa Cause award by the Calgary Food & Drug Executives in cooperation with the Retail Council of Canada.

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