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.

Ellen Klegstad

UNFI Fresh- Key Customer Contact


Providence, RI

Q. How has your career evolved over the years?

A.  My parents owned and operated a café/bakery in Chicago. Part of being in a family owned business is everyone is involved. I found my passion and career path when I went to work for Jewel Foods in 1981. Within six months I was offered an opportunity to attend their management program, which led to managing a bakery department then a deli department. It was there that I spent time learning the management portion of the business as well as the knowledge of handling product in both the bakery and deli.

In 1997, my career would continue in a new path, and I became a bakery/deli specialist with SUPERVALU, working with independent retailers. I would work closely with retailers on merchandising, promoting SUPERVALU programs and selling events to grow their sales.

In 2000, I would go back to retail and work for Marketplace Foods in Wisconsin and oversee the bakery and deli operations at all its stores. The knowledge I gained on the wholesale side would be instrumental in working on developing new programs based on the offerings of the warehouse.

I was responsible for merchandising, training new managers, writing ads, and developing and executing programs and events that grew the business.

In 2015, I would make another change in my career and return back to wholesale to SUPERVALU, now UNFI. My job has evolved to the place that I enjoy the most and that is working directly with customers with multiple stores.  To be a part of developing and researching products or programs that grow their business is rewarding but most valuable is the relationships that have been developed.

 Q. What positions have you held in industry associations? 

A.  For the past 20 years, I have been involved with IDDBA as part of the “What’s in Store” deli merchandising team. It has been rewarding to showcase trends visually for retailers.

 Q. What is your leadership philosophy?

A.  I believe it’s important to provide your team with the tools needed to succeed. Supporting ongoing training, setting goals and providing feedback is essential along with being compassionate. Encourage your team to try new experiences.

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

A.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Communication is delivered in many ways and quickly. Asking questions provides clarity of the vision or goal, and it allows feedback.  

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

A. This can be challenging at times because I do want to make sure the customer is taken care of. I have learned the importance of finding balance to spend time with the ones you love and make good memories.

Q:  What deli retail trends have impacted the industry most over the last ye

A. Customers experiencing the need for normalcy after isolating from COVID. We saw significant growth in sweet goods and grab-and-go items. In many areas, self- service cases were closed. These are now open, and the customers are welcoming back the options and variety missed.

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

 A.  I use a lot of reports that I have access to internally as well as reports that are offered in the industry. These provide the details of how a customer’s business is trending to others in their market as well as missed opportunities. It’s factual information that customer can visually see and compare their performance and provide strategies for growth in their business.

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

A. Reacting and resourcing products that fill the need of the consumer. As consumers are sharing, that time is essential, and the need for variety of healthy meals solutions were needed. Social media has driven curiosity in the consumer to entertain in using new recipes or ready-to-go party favorites When offered at their local store, it’s a win for the consumer and increased sales for the store. 

Q.  What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

A. I really enjoy traveling and our cabin. There’s nothing better than spending time on the lake.

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

I am married to my husband Jim for 10 years. Within our blended family we have three grown children—Natalie, Joey and Sarah. In addition, we have seven grandchildren. 


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