18th Annual People’s Awards

Deli Business’ annual People’s Awards recognizes the best of the best in the industry. These individuals come from a wide range of backgrounds and experience but what they have in common is notable careers and contributions to the field. The following pages detail this year’s winners’ careers, business philosophies and crowning achievements, along with insight on their personal lives.

Diane Cleven

Vice President for Deli/Prepared Foods/Bakery and Sushi

The Fresh Market

Greensboro, NC

Q. How has your career evolved over the years? 

A.  I started my career almost 40 years ago with a small chain of specialty stores in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area called Taste Unlimited where I wrote orders, unloaded trucks and ran a small distribution system to keep all five stores stocked. From there I went to Haddon House Foods, which was the largest specialty foods distributor in the country at the time. I spent almost 10 years with them and became involved with The Fresh Market as their key account manager. This led to my transition to TFM as a merchant where I have happily been since February 2000.

 Q. What positions have you held in industry associations? 

A. I have been a member of ACS (American Cheese Society).

 Q. What is your leadership philosophy? 

A.  I believe in clear communication and honesty with all of my team members. I also want them to know they are respected and know they are a valuable asset to the company.

Q. What is the best advice you ever received and why? 

A.  Do not make “No” your first answer.

Q. How do you balance your work and personal life? 

A.  This is something I am getting better at! I am fortunate enough to still have both of my parents in my life, and I know the importance of making time for them at this stage of their lives. This has helped me gain some balance.

Q.  What deli retail trends have impacted the industry most over the last year

A.  We have seen a shift in guests’ shopping behaviors, as restaurants have re-opened versus 2020. In 2020, we saw a huge spike in deli meat and cheese sales, as everyone was working from home including children home from school. This trend has softened this past year.

Q. What technology or technical tools are indispensable to you in the workplace and why? 

A.  We use Micro-Strategy to pull all of our sales data to include sales, profit dollars, shrink and year over year comps. I also use a pricing tool that shows elasticity on retails. This has become a very useful tool given the inflationary market we are in.

Q. What have been the biggest changes in the deli industry over the course of your career? 

A.  Without a doubt it has been the impact of the pandemic. Supply chain issues, inflation, labor and fewer vendor choices have made it a very challenging time. 

Q. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome on the job

A.  I have a high sense of urgency to get things done as quickly as possible, which is not always the right path. I have had to learn to slow down a bit and gather all the facts before I react.

Q.  What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work? 

A.  Cooking, golf, yoga and reading.

Q. Are you married? If so, how long? How many children? 

A.  I will celebrate my 41 wedding anniversary this June! We are child free as a life choice.


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