2022 Panel Coming Soon!

We’ve asked our Awards Evaluation Panel to share how innovation helps to drive their businesses…

Aaron Vella

Aaron Vella

Buyer, Costco Wholesale

Offering new and innovative items is important to the treasure hunt experience in our clubs. These items are what keeps our members coming down our aisles. A big part of the Joy for our members, is coming across items they didn’t come in for, but fall in love with.

Brian Rinker

Brian Rinker

Director/Divisional Merchandise Manager: Snacking and Confections, Walgreen Co.

Innovation is the lifeblood of the category, with younger generations having a 3x flavor preference vs older ones and millennials are the most health and social conscious generation; we need to foster innovation to meet these demands.

Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee

Sr. Category Manager – Center Store, 7-Eleven

Innovation is critical to keep the assortment fresh and attract new customers. Our key gen X and gen Alpha demographics seek out innovative items be it unique flavors, packaging, or an edible experience.

Nancy Gallardo

Nancy Gallardo

Category Manager, Snacks, 7-Eleven

Every great product started out as innovation! You never know when an innovative item may become the next best thing. The customer is constantly changing, and innovation helps us change with them.

Bob Craigmyle

Bob Craigmyle

ACM – Candy, Kroger

Innovation helps keep the category fresh and appealing to our Customers. Kroger will heavily support new item launches with displays/price to capture sales and share.

Kayla Verney

Kayla Verney

Category Merchant, BJ’s Wholesale Club

Innovation helps drives my business by allowing me to bring new exciting trends and items to my members, it provides an extension to the core items and provides a treasure hunt experience in club.

Emily Gordon

Emily Gordon

Senior Category Manager, Take Home and Seasonal Candy, Walgreen Co.

Innovation brings life into the category and supports the classics with a fun and fresh option, especially for our younger consumers. It’s a great testing playground to see what just could be the next big idea.

Ashley Borden

Ashley Borden

Category Director, Murphy USA

With the ever-changing customer profile, innovation is imperative across category assortments.  The customers want to be at the forefront of any new trend.  It is our job to be there for them.

Todd Gean

Todd Gean

Category Manager – Candy, Hy-Vee, Inc.

Innovation creates excitement and makes us relevant with our consumers.

Deb Sammon

Deb Sammon

Category Manager – Candy, Snacks and Ice Cream, Coborn’s

Innovation helps us identify new opportunities for growth with our existing customers and find ways to attract new customers.

Rich Jacobs

Rich Jacobs

Director, RaceTrac Petroleum

A large percentage of our YOY growth is from innovation. Innovation also helps us retain our current guest and attract new consumers.

Brian Nuzum

Brian Nuzum

Category Manager – Snacks, Casey’s General Stores

Having new and innovative products in conjunction with a strong core assortment, is key to attracting new guests to the categories, as well as satisfying our guests ever-changing flavor profiles.

Peter Kempton

Peter Kempton

Category Manager, Travel Centers of America

Innovation keeps the category fresh and exciting. It’s a great way to interact with our guests and drive additional sales dollars.

Tom Rosenberger

Tom Rosenberger

Sales Manager, Sheetz Inc.

We love that social buzz when customers shout out to their friends where they found the new stuff! Being top of mind in customers eyes for innovation helps drive customer trips and reinforces the possibility for something new to interrupt their everyday routine.

Meredith Stringer

Meredith Stringer

Director of Merchandising – Bulk/Candy, The Fresh Market

Innovation adds elements of surprise and delight that create a positive customer experience. Continued focus on innovative items and assortments drives sales and keeps customers dedicated and engaged.

Lindy Smith

Lindy Smith

Senior Director of Category Management, Maverik

Innovation drives trial and builds baskets and hopefully repeat purchase.

Kelly Bannon

Kelly Bannon

Senior Category Manager, QuickChek Corporation

Innovation is a huge driver of our business.  It is extremely important not to swing the pendulum too far away from the core but being first to market and getting behind each manufacturers’ “A-Launches” can be key to hitting the year-end number.  

Robin Gutridge

Robin Gutridge

Category Manager, Candy and General Merchandise, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores

Innovation keeps the manufacturer and retailer relevant to the consumer and drives incremental growth. Everything about Candy and Snacking is fun! New product launches are the spark that keeps everyone engaged and searching for more.

Natran Rezene (Nati)

Director of Marketing and Category Management, Core-Mark International

Innovation is what helps to keep us competitive and relevant in a world and an industry that is changing at all times. Innovation also drives continuous engagement, excitement and curiosity that keeps our consumers coming for more.

Sarah Bibbs

Sarah Bibbs

Senior Director of Merchandising, Eby Brown

Innovation is key to driving growth in the categories.  Providing new items that incorporate trending flavors, textures and packaging helps provide excitement within the categories.

Jim Hachtel

Jim Hachtel

Director of Category Management, Eby-Brown, a PFG Company

Innovation in all forms…products, merchandising, insights, and technology are keys to success for us as we support the needs of our customer’s stores, and the consumers that shop them every day. Innovation brings excitement, customizes offers, speeds transactions, and helps our retail partners best meet the needs of their customers in this fast-paced, ever-changing world.