Retailer Keynote: Rich Wardwell, President – Superior Grocers

Rich Wardwell is President of Superior Grocers, one of Southern California’s largest independent supermarket chains operating 47 locations. Rich has been with Superior Grocers for over 7 years and is responsible for the strategic direction and day to day operations of the company.

Rich has over 35 years of grocery retail experience. He began his grocery career at Raley’s Supermarket in 1982 as a courtesy clerk in Reno, Nevada. He entered into management in 1984 and throughout his 25 year career at Raley’s, he managed locations in Nevada, California and New Mexico serving in roles from Courtesy Clerk to General Manager. In 2007, Richard Left Raley’s for a Director of Operations Role at Save Mart Supermarkets. In 2010, Rich went to work for Wal-Mart. In March 2011, Richard went back to Raley’s as Vice President of Operations for their Food Source Division until leaving to work for Superior Grocers in November of 2014 as Vice President of Operations.

Rich currently serves on the boards for WAFC, California Grocers Association and Olive Crest and is a member of the C-Level Roundtable Sharegroup. He has previously served on the Board of New Mexico Grocers Association and the Board of Northern Nevada Food Bank.

Zack Nippert, President – CivicScience

As the President of CivicScience, Zack leads all aspects of CivicScience’s intelligence business and overall growth initiatives. Zack joined CivicScience after 10 years at consumer insights firm MotiveQuest, based in Chicago, where he led the company to a successful acquisition by LRW as the company’s President. Prior to MotiveQuest, Zack led account management teams at some of the world’s largest global advertising agencies, including Leo Burnett and DDB Chicago/NYC. Zack is a serial entrepreneur who enjoys helping clients solve problems and grow their brands in meaningful ways. Over his career, Zack has partnered with Fortune 500 companies across multiple verticals including technology, financial services, healthcare, CPG, and others to provide the data and market intelligence needed to fuel clients’ growth and success.

Colleen McClellan, Director/Sommelier/WSET III – Datassential

Colleen has over 20-years’ experience in marketing, insights, and innovation for both retail and foodservice markets. Throughout her career, she has worked to translate trends and insights into profitable actions across all food and beverage categories. Currently, Colleen is a Director with Datassential, a certified Sommelier, WSET III certified in wine, holds a MBA in International, Business, MS in Managing Information Systems, and a BS in Neurobiology and Physiology.

Erica Norton, Sr. Director, Consumer Insights – The Hershey Company

Erica Norton is Sr. Director, Consumer Insights for The Hershey Company. In this role, she is responsible for driving Hershey’s consumer understanding across the organization, focusing on leveraging consumer-driven data to identify insights that will unlock growth for each of our brands/businesses.

Prior to joining Hershey in February 2015, Erica worked for The Cambridge Group, where she was a Project Director, focusing on bringing demand-driven growth strategies to a range of both US and global clients. She has significant experience within consumer research, strategy and marketing, including consumer segmentation, brand positioning and new product innovation. She has worked extensively within the consumer goods, retail, financial services and healthcare industries. Prior to working at The Cambridge Group, she was at Chase Securities (now JP Morgan Chase) in Global syndicated Finance, focused on Media and Telecommunications.

Erica holds both a BSE degree from the Wharton School and a BA degree from the College at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Mike Poznansky, Founder & Managing Director – Neato

Mike is the Founder and Managing Director of Neato, an insights-driven marketing agency that helps brands understand and connect with college students and Gen Z. Neato develops strategy and designs programs for brands across multiple categories, including Anheuser-Busch, Clif Bar, Vans, Spotify, Red Bull, and The Wall Street Journal. Before founding Neato, Mike was the National Collegiate Marketing Manager for Red Bull North America and led the development and implementation of Red Bull North America’s College Marketing Strategy and Programming.

In addition to his role at Neato, Mike hosts a podcast called More Than a Job, where he conducts and hosts in-depth conversations with CEOs, CMOs, and Entrepreneurs who create a positive impact through their work. The podcast launches in April and includes interviews with Sarah Crockett, the CMO of Backcountry, Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airsteam, and Steve Nielsen, VP of Marketing at Liquid Death. Mike is also a private pilot and serves on the Board of Trustees at the Airline Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (AOPA).

Tom Bailey, Senior Analyst – Consumer Foods, RaboResearch

Based in Chicago, Tom is a Senior Consumer Foods Analyst, focused on the North American market. Tom’s experience spans the entire Consumer Foods value chain, from commodity risk and trading, market forecasting, price setting, medium- and long-term strategy development and implementation, to general management and consumer brand development. He is a seasoned researcher, sought-after industry speaker, and a trusted client advisor.

Previously, Tom worked as an Operating Partner at the New Zealand-based private equity firm Southern Pastures, where he established a post-farmgate strategy focused on integrating the business from farm to fork. Prior to that, he worked for several years in New York and Chicago as a RaboResearch Senior Analyst, with a focus on the dairy and dairy alternatives sectors. Tom holds a B.A. from the University of Idaho and an M.S. in International Business from the University of Auckland.

Jason Smith, Managing Director – USA, Shopper Intelligence

Jason Smith has been leading the US team at Shopper Intelligence since 2018. Prior to joining Shopper Intelligence, he managed multiple Category Management Teams at Hormel Foods & Colgate-Palmolive. Jason’s most recent experience was at dunnhumby where he was the Head of Category Management Capability for North America. Jason also currently sits on the Food Marketing Advisory Boards for both Western Michigan University and DePaul University.

Curt Avallone, Chief Business Officer – Takeoff Technologies

Curt Avallone has dedicated the past 30 years to developing innovative retail solutions. He has collaborated with a variety of teams to build new businesses that today generate over $8 billion in annual sales and over 30,000 jobs. He launched successful eCommerce divisions at Ahold Delhaize, Giant Eagle, and CVS Pharmacy, as well as the HEB and Ahold Delhaize fueling divisions. Curt designed, patented and operated the Ahold “ScanIt!” mobile system, which allows shoppers to scan and bag groceries while they shop. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.