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.

Cathy East

Vice President National Merchandising – Meat & Seafood

Albertsons Cos.

Boise, ID

Q.  How has your career evolved over the years?

 A.  After graduating from the University of Missouri with a major in Food Science and Nutrition, I began working in a meat production facility as a production supervisor, and then went on to work in food safety at the corporate level. This experience really provided a strong foundation for my career as food safety and quality have always been at the core of every decision I make. As an industry, we have come so far in creating a memorable customer experience by celebrating food and enhancing our portfolio with assortment and convenient options that taste great and are good for you. At Albertsons Cos., we focus on delivering the solutions that excite and delight our customers!

Q.  What positions have you held in industry associations? 

 A.  Through my career, I have held the following positions: Chairperson for the National Pork Board Retail Advisory Committee, Co-Chair for the Annual Meat Conference, member of the Working Group at Colorado State University’s AgNext, member of the steering committee for NAMI’s Protein PACT, and one of the founding board members of the Women in Meat Industry Network.

Q.  What is your leadership philosophy?

A.  The characteristics of servant leadership are so important in an industry where you are providing health and nutrition to your customers. We have always known the value of our teams, but it was really highlighted during the pandemic when every role was considered an essential worker. Leading through disruption requires knowledge of your business, humility, a strong work ethic and empathy for your associates. I believe that it is so important to acknowledge and appreciate their efforts, and you do that by standing side-by-side with them. I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by an amazing group of people who are enormously talented and completely dedicated to serving our customers. Personally, I try my best to let them know how much they are appreciated and that they should be very proud of all they have accomplished. At the national level, we support our associates by leveraging best practices and creating tools to help them succeed.

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

A.  The best advice that I have received is: “Don’t get too big for your britches” and treat everyone with kindness and respect. From a professional perspective, make every decision as though you were making it for your family. Early in my retail career, I had a boss who would point to a picture of his grandkids when he was interviewing vendors and state that if he wouldn’t feel comfortable serving their product to them, then he wouldn’t allow it in our stores.

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

I’m a big believer in the integration of both work and personal life, and I’ve tried not to let my work interfere with my ability to be present in my personal life. For example, when my kids were younger, attending school field trips wasn’t practical for me, but I could help with anything related to food. We hosted some epic school dances and teacher luncheons, which brought together both worlds, and it really wasn’t that time consuming with a little help from my colleagues in deli, bakery and floral.

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

A.  Over the last year, we have gotten very creative with products and assortments for our customers. Foodservice is slowly returning, but for the last year, retail remained the main destination for nearly every eating occasion, and we had to elevate our portfolio in all areas of the department including main dishes, side dishes, sandwiches and meal solutions to fill the gap. As far as packaging, we found new ways to prepare and transport our products from the store to the home so that the experience for the customer was seamless.

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

A.  Video conferencing has been a lifeline to maintain connectivity to our colleagues across Albertsons Cos., and that personal connection is so important. A technical tool that has been really valuable is our ability to leverage data from multiple applications and integrate the information that we have learned into our omnichannel environment.

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

A.  The biggest change has been the variety of products offered in our department over the last 25 years. We went from a very basic item assortment to an elevated experience that meets or exceeds a restaurant in the comfort of your own home. From fried chicken and charcuterie boards made with international cheeses to complete holiday dinners, our customers are proud to serve our products to their families and guests and feel as though they had some part in the preparation of the event.

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

A.  The supply chain constraints we experienced as a result of the pandemic was by far the biggest challenge I encountered in my career. However, we worked really hard to secure product and find alternative solutions for our customers, as we understood how critical it was to continue to serve our communities. It was also so incredible to see how our teams persevered in the face of unprecedented obstacles.

Q.  What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

A.  I am an avid runner and most days you can find me outside on the trails when I get a break, regardless of the weather. Skiing and hiking as a family are our favorite activities when we are all together in Colorado. I also enjoy refinishing furniture when I stumble on a great piece that just needs a little love.

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

A.  I have been married to Chris, my college sweetheart, for 30 years. We have three smart, strong and independent children currently all in college, and we couldn’t be prouder of them. Of course, they would say our favorite child is Maverick – our English Crème Retriever.


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