Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer honors a new group of under-40-year-olds working to change our industry for the better.
George Bernard Shaw once said that youth is wasted on the young. But he never met the 20- and 30-somethings we talked to who represent the future of the frozen and refrigerated industry. These young men and women are developing innovative new products, harnessing the power of technology for the greater good, working to improve sustainability, and advocating for both themselves and those less fortunate (So much for the stereotype of millennials as selfish and entitled!).
Read on to hear their stories and what we can expect from these go-getters in the future.
CRAIG GLIVA, 39
Category Manager, Packaged Deli, The Kroger Co.
After six years at PL Marketing where he worked to build Kroger’s corporate brands program, Gliva took a position with the retailer. He started in category strategy innovation but eventually moved into his current job as packaged deli category manager. “It’s been such a blessing,” says Gliva, who cites his experience with Kroger’s Go Fresh & Go Local Supplier Accelerator as one of the most rewarding parts of his job so far.
“I got to work with and mentor these small, local suppliers with great products that they’re really passionate about,” he explains. “It was really gratifying.” But Gliva’s passion has always been kids. “I didn’t have the best childhood, but I had a lot of good role models,” he says. “Without them, I don’t know where I’d be.”
So when Gliva had an opportunity to get involved with his local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, he saw an opportunity to do for someone else what others had done for him. But everything changed when he asked his “little” what he wanted to do for Christmas. The boy didn’t want to make a present for his parents like Gliva had thought. What he really wanted was to “give” his less fortunate friend a Christmas. “I said yeah, let’s do it,” says Gliva. “But let’s give 10 kids a Christmas, not just one.” And that’s how Shoe Boxes of Kindness was born.
‘I realized that it’s not inappropriate to challenge my work to support me in my passion.’
With the help of colleagues and friends, the project snowballed to include 110 kids that first year. “Last year, we did 530 shoe boxes,” says Gliva. Recently, however, he was in a meeting with a potential investor who asked him what he would be doing if he didn’t work for Kroger. Gliva answered that he’d probably work for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “He asked me why I couldn’t do both, and that in- spired me to change the way I was thinking, to realize that it’s not inappropriate to challenge my work to support me in my passion.”
Kroger has absolutely risen to the occasion, reports Gliva, who notes that one of the company’s core values is feeding the human spirit. “It is so cool to work for a company that really embraces that and wants to help others,” he says.
AUDREY LEDUC, 35
North America Director, Planet-Friendly Practices, McCain
Leduc’s career in the mining industry took her all over the world, but as sustainability became a bigger part of her job in supply chain optimization, she wondered how she could make an impact closer to home. She became interested in how to feed a growing population in the face of land depletion and extreme weather events, which eventually led her to the food industry.
“My role at McCain allows me to leverage my expertise in supply chain optimization, drive sustainable packaging, contribute to positive change in rural communities that we depend on and, most of all, lead a team of passionate advocates for sustainable progress,” says Leduc.
She’s been part of some pretty exciting projects, including the creation of a $1 million Future of Farming Fund with McDonald’s Canada that supports growers in their journey to regenerative agriculture. But Leduc says she gets the most satisfaction from the smaller, outside-the-box changes that she and her team have driven: modifying plate size in cafeterias to reduce food waste, leaving the peels on rustic fries to use more of the potato, and supporting the creation of Community Development Projects in areas where McCain operates. There’s a lot more to be done, she says, and retailers play a key role.
‘I believe the food industry can accelerate collective change by increasingly holding suppliers accountable for improvements around sustainability.’
“I believe the food industry can accelerate collective change by increasingly holding suppliers accountable for improvements around sustainability,” Leduc explains. “We’re already seeing a rise in sustainability data requests from customers,” she adds, citing Walmart’s Project Giga- ton as an example. “Their goal becomes our goal because we’re recognized as a partner of choice when we demonstrate improvement in our emissions year over year.”
WARREN WILSON, 33
Co-Founder, Bagelista & Founder-in-Residence, Target
As the child of parents who ran their own successful snack business, Warren Wilson grew up in the CPG business. He was working trade shows by age 13, and by his early 30s he had nearly two decades of industry experience under his belt.
But Wilson made the jump to entrepreneur during the pandemic when he and wife Jenna realized that supermarket bagels were a poor substitute for the fresh, New York bagel shop bagels they were accustomed to.
To fill that gap, the two developed a more authentic, artisan bagel that’s only partially baked so consumers can enjoy authentic New York-style bagels fresh from their own ovens. But the pair’s big break came later when Bagelista Bake at Home Bagels were accepted into the Target Takeoff program for promising young brands ready to launch on the chain’s shelves. “We are so grateful for Target’s willingness to invest in early-stage brands like ours,” says Wilson, who recently joined the company’s Forward Founders Accelerator program.
As a founder-in-residence, he mentors early-stage brands on their journey to Target’s shelves. “There is nothing more satisfying than sharing everything I’ve learned with the next wave of entrepreneurs in CPG,” says Wilson, who believes collaboration is essential to success.
‘There is nothing more satisfying than sharing everything I’ve learned with the next wave of entrepreneurs in CPG.’
He knows first-hand how difficult it can be to bring new innovation to market without CPG backing or significant capital. “But I’m sharing with founders that it’s achievable to succeed independently by making delicious and differentiated products, staying focused on sales velocity and avoiding financial pitfalls.”
JASPER FALLUCCA, 26
Director of Business Development
NICK FALLUCCA, 36
Chief Product & Innovation Officer, Palermo’s Pizza
Gaspare Fallucca emigrated to the United States in 1954 with a fifth grade education and no plan B. Nearly 70 years later, his grandsons Nick and Jasper help run the company he eventually founded, now one of the largest family-held frozen pizza producers in the country. “It’s an honor to be part of the family legacy,” says Jasper, who had a front-row seat to Palermo’s acquisition of the Connie’s brand as well as its recent Surfer Boy Pizza launch at Walmart.
But older brother Nick says the achievement he’s most proud of is the company’s creation of the Screamin’ Sicilian brand, billed as the first restaurant quality craft pizza brand in the frozen department. One of the fastest-growing pizza brands in the category, “It’s the product other food brands are trying to emulate,” he says. “It just goes to show that having a great product with a real story is a key ingredient for success.” That said, Nick is already looking for “the next Screamin’ Sicilian.”
“It’s so important to innovate in everything we do, challenge the status quo and not lose sight of what consumers want,” he explains. “In the CPG business, you can never sit still.”
Jasper is equally focused on continuous improvement, with the goal of changing the narrative around frozen food. “There is this belief that frozen food is inherently subpar,” he says. “We strive to continue innovating and prove to consumers why frozen pizza should be a part of their weekly shopping list.”
‘It’s so important to innovate in everything we do, challenge the status quo and not lose sight of what consumers want.’
Outside of the office, Nick is on the board of the Kinship Community Food Center, whose mission has evolved from simply feeding people to helping them thrive. But as a servant leader, he’s equally committed to improving the lives of Palermo’s employees. “I try to not just work on the business but in the business. For example, it’s important to get out into the plant, to work with R&D and meet with customers to truly understand everyone’s needs,” Nick explains. “Those are some of the values that have been passed down from my family.” He adds, “From my grandparents to my parents and uncle, I have had great role models who have shown me what hard work is and how to be successful not just at Palermo’s but in the food business.”
BEN HAMLIN, 38
Director of Own Brands, Meijer
With degrees in Spanish and international economics, Hamlin never imagined a career in the supermarket industry. But after a stint on the CPG side, he joined the team at Meijer where he’s become a leader in the own brand space. “I love the challenges this industry presents daily…and that everyone is connected to it in some way,” he says.
While Hamlin is credited with implementing a new data-based approach to Meijer’s private label program, particularly the upscale Frederik’s brand, the highlight of his career is his recent President’s Award, which recognizes significant business contributions in the past year. “Winning awards isn’t something I think about when coming to work each day, so to be recognized for driving the success of the company was a surreal moment,” he says.
But Hamlin is quick to give credit to others. “Our Meijer team is phenomenal. I’ve had so many smart and influential people teach me and help shape my career. And I’ve learned from all of them, regardless of their role, function or title,” he says.
Hamlin is also big on giving back. “The work that we’ve been able to do to enrich lives in the communities we serve, through programs such as Meijer Team Gives and Simple Give, as well as the work our teams do each and every day to help their communities, is something I’m proud to be part of.”
‘I’ve had so many smart and influential people teach me and help shape my career. And I’ve learned from all of them, regardless of their role, function or title.’
What’s his best advice for industry newbies? “Think of your career as a marathon, not a sprint,” says Hamlin. “Every opportunity is a chance to learn something new, even if it’s not immediately apparent.”
BLAIR SMITTCAMP-MARTIN, 34
Marketing & Special Projects Manager, Wawona Frozen Foods
Smittcamp-Martin’s grandfather Earl Smittcamp started as a fresh peach packer in the 1940s before eventually purchasing the property and creating what would one day become Wawona Frozen Foods. Her father Bill took over what’s now the largest peach processing facility in the country in the mid-80s, so she and brothers Blake and Bradley have been “in it from the beginning,” says Smittcamp-Martin.
All three started working at the family’s fruit stand at age 10 and then moved onto the line. So when Smittcamp-Martin graduated from college, she assumed she’d join the family business right away. But after a Personalysis showed she was a little too type A — just like dad — he suggested she get some outside experience first and learn how to channel that intensity. Best decision ever, says Smittcamp-Martin. When she finally got the call five years later that her dad needed an executive assistant, she was ready.
Today, Smittcamp-Martin works as marketing and special projects manager, sharing the company’s story with employees, customers, growers, the community and friends via social media, newsletters, news articles and TV interviews. “It’s a privilege to be part of the generation that takes Wawona Frozen Foods into the next 60 years,” she says.
‘It’s a privilege to be part of the generation that takes Wawona Frozen Foods into the next 60 years.’
What are the most important lessons she’s learned along the way? “The value of hard work. The importance of the process. That our employees are the key to our success. And that everyone who walks through those doors — from an employee punching the time clock before starting a shift in repack, to a vendor selling cardboard boxes, to a longtime grower unloading a truck full of just- picked Wawona peaches — is family. And we could not do what we do without them.”
CHELSI BALDWIN, 34
Divisional Sales Manager, Ajinomoto
Although she started as a promotions analyst at Safeway, Baldwin soon moved into a broker position, which offered a “peek under the tent” that stirred her interest in working on the CPG side. She gave herself three years to land a job with a CPG company, but Ajinomoto came knocking after only one. “Moving to the CPG side of the business allowed me to unlock aspects of my job that I am really passionate about,” says Baldwin. “But I never would have had the opportunity if I hadn’t pushed myself to step outside my comfort zone.”
That said, Baldwin wouldn’t trade those early experiences for anything. “I distinctly recall a mentor coaching me on the art of networking and emphasizing the importance of bringing something to the table,” she explains. In her case, that “something” is often her first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by grocery buyers and what they need from their supplier partners.
Along with networking, which Baldwin says is a powerful tool for driving career growth, another key to her success is listening. “It’s an often overlooked skill,” she says. “But talking less and listening more has never failed me.”
‘It’s an often overlooked skill, but talking less and listening more has never failed me.’
When it comes to industry changes she would like to see her generation spearhead, Baldwin cites responsible food production. “We can do a better job as an industry to cut back on heavy food processing, additives and high sugar/sodium,” she says. “There are better ways to achieve flavor that will benefit us all in the long run. We’re all consumers of this industry, and it’s important that we do our part to contribute.”
BRYAN CHARTRAND, 37
Executive VP, Business Development, Acosta Group
When he started working as a bagger at his local Demoulas Market Basket at age 14, Chartrand had no idea he’d still be in the grocery game 23 years later. But after a stint with Nestlé, he joined Acosta, first in business intelligence, then in sales. Six years ago, Chartrand got an opportunity to move his family to Jacksonville and work in corporate (“best decision I ever made”), where he eventually rose to his current position as executive vp of business development.
During his long tenure, Chartrand has developed approximately $100 million in recurring revenue. But that’s his job, he says. “What’s been most rewarding is connecting with young people coming up through the ranks. I only got to where I am thanks to mentors early in my career,” he explains. “So I feel an obligation to pay it forward to the next generation of leaders at Acosta.”
Chartrand is also proud of the advocacy he’s done on behalf of his associates. While he calls himself “an Acosta evangelist” who enjoys spreading the good word about the company, “I’ve also been loud about things I think we should change, including paternal leave.” It wasn’t in place when his third child was born, but it is now, he says. “Acosta is a workplace that really fosters growth, prioritizes diversity and inclusion, and respects work-life balance.”
‘I only got to where I am thanks to mentors early in my career. So I feel an obligation to pay it forward to the next generation of leaders at Acosta.’
Last year, Chartrand joined the NFRA Board of Directors, which he’s found very rewarding. “I really like being in that type of networking environment where you really get to know people outside of a selling situation,” he says. He adds that while networking is important for young people entering the business, authenticity and credibility are key to long-term success. And the latter requires hard work. “You have to have a desire to learn and grow and gain knowledge,” says Chartrand. “There’s no rulebook for the CPG industry. It’s knowledge through experience.”
Want to hear more? Read what Industry Veterans Have to Say…)