TRADE SHOWS: 11 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

by Birgit Blain, President, Birgit Blain & Associates Inc.

Exhibiting at trade or consumer shows may be expensive and time-consuming, but it’s an investment that can significantly benefit your brand.

How to maximize ROI? Having a plan is the first step. But, a plan is only as good as the execution.

#1.  Determine your objectives and prioritize them. Do you want to get orders at the show, launch a new product, raise awareness of your brand, find a distributor, drive traffic to your online store, test the response to new concepts or packaging or build a marketing database?

#2.  Find the right show to achieve those goals, ensuring attendees include the audience you are targeting. Pre-screen shows by attending and talking to exhibitors and industry colleagues.

#3.  Prepare months in advance. Assemble a team. Design a booth with “curb appeal” that draws people in.

#4.  Carefully choose the products you want to showcase, in line with your objectives. If it’s hot food, make sure that it holds well over time and has an enticing aroma.

#5.  It’s a food show, so sampling your product is a must! Even if it’s a consumer show, don’t be stingy with samples. Maximize the exposure for your brand.

When I walk a trade show, I sample dozens of products and only remember those that were exceptionally good or bad. If possible, distribute samples for visitors to take home and enjoy at their leisure.

Cooking demonstrations can attract attention and create mouthwatering aromas. If the product is perishable, understand show requirements and local government food safety regulations. And never handle the food with your bare hands; it’s a turn-off for the food-safety-minded.

#6.  Handing out samples in blank packaging is a total waste of money. Always include branding and contact information. Note that Health Canada labelling regulations apply to sample-size packaging.

#7.  Invite your prospects ahead of time via social media, email, a phone call, whatever. Have a hook or incentive for them to seek out your booth. Offer discounted admission if available. Offer value when they get there.

#8.  Staff the booth with people who know your brand, products and points of difference versus competitors. Give them a 30 second elevator pitch to memorize. Ensure they speak the local language. At SIAL I saw a huge booth with lots of graphics in Chinese, no staff and no visitors. That translates into no sales.

#9.  It’s not rocket science but time and again I have seen exhibitors sitting and waiting for visitors to approach them. If your booth isn’t busy, don’t just sit there; get your product out in the aisle and approach passers-by.

#10.  When there’s a lull in traffic, take some time to visit other exhibitors to scope out competitors and learn what works and what doesn’t.

#11.  Scan attendee badges or collect their business cards. Jot down their products of interest. And most important of all, FOLLOW UP after the show. This is an absolute must. Don’t expect anyone to remember you.

And one last thing, SMILE!

Applying these tips will help to make trade shows a worthwhile investment and raise awareness of your brand. No matter how great your product, no one will buy it unless they know about it. Getting it in their mouths can clinch the sale – provided it delivers on taste, is impactfully packaged and priced right.

As a packaged foods consultant specializing in strategy, brand and packaging development, Birgit Blain makes brands more saleable. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Brands and President’s Choice®. Contact her at or

Breaking the Bounds

Rotman Commerce Women in Business

The Sixth Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium

March 6, 2015


I was honored, and pleasantly surprised, to be invited to participate on the Food Panel at the Sixth Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium, presented by Rotman Commerce Women in Business.  I was in great company, with other food industry leaders.  While there are many career options in the food industry, it quickly became clear that food people are friendly, food is something that brings people together, and the passion for the industry is infectious!

The 2015 Food Panel:

Nicole Karmali – Operations Manager, Oliver & Bonacini Events & Catering

Nancy Klassen – Associate Director – Human Resources, Kerr Bros. Limited; Board Chair, Women in Food Industry Management (WFIM);

Krista Payne – Director of Operations, Sobeys

Joanna Pleta – PR & Marketing Manager, Momofuku

Nadege Nourian – Chef & Owner, Nadege Bakery

Moderator:  Louisa Clements, “Living Lou” Food Blogger

Career Paths

While each leader had a different path to get to where they are, it was clear that hard work, taking hold of opportunities (and making your own!), and transferable skills were important to their success.

Nicole graduated with a B. Comm in Hospitality from the University of Guelph. She started as a bartender at Oliver & Bonacini, with plans for being promoted into management.  She found this helpful to understand the culture & the brand.  She pitched to the owners that O&B should do events.  They loved the idea & they took over the operations at the Toronto Board of Trade – with Nicole in charge!  Nicole used her 4 years of experience to build the division.  Her strategy is to hire people that can do the things you can’t do, and to work off each other’s strengths.    She states that she has fallen into the position as much as she lead the way.

Joanna also graduated with a B. Comm, in marketing & web design.  She liked food, and found herself freelancing on the side with restaurants in the city to design their websites for free.  She found that knowing the operations, she was better able to market the concept.

Krista worked in retail pharmacy then hospital pharmacy, and then was a manager at Shopper’s Drug Mart.  She was hired on at Sobey’s as Operations Manager, and hasn’t looked back since!  She moved into a talent management role to develop Department Managers, Asst Store Managers & Store Managers.  As a female in a male-dominated industry, she found that she had to have perseverance, stay focused, work with a mentor, and continually set new goals.

Nancy, also a University of Guelph grad in the B. Comm, hospitality program, started her career managing restaurants.   She loved the people side, training them, and seeing them grow, so she moved in a training role.   Wanting a change in her career, she found that she had a lot of transferable skills to move into Human Resources.   She received her HR diploma, and is now working in the food manufacturing industry, where her knowledge of food safety is an asset in her role.

Nadege’s great grandparents and grandparents had a pastry shop.   From a very young age she was working in the bakery.  She went to pastry school in France.  She knew that you have to be passionate and work long hours on your feet to be successful in the baking industry.

Daily Roles

Through the conversation, we discovered that in any position in the food industry, people, hiring, training are a key part of a leadership role.

Joanna states that it is hard to pin down daily activities as there are so many moving parts.   On a higher level, it’s about building relationships.  You need to be very entrepreneurial.  It’s what you make of it.

Nadege usually works 7 days a week, starting at 4 am.  Being in charge of the team in the kitchen, they have to make everything to be ready for the opening of the shop.  After that, the day can change: testing new recipes, checking on the different sections like cake, bread, croissants.  She is close to the kitchen team & the managers. As the owner, she also needs to sign for bills, spend time on e-mail & phone, taking care of the business end.

Nicole’s days vary depending upon the events and season.   Marketing, setting the tone of owning the events, hiring, training & development are some of her many activities.  One of her favorite roles is developing young managers coming up from serving staff.   She meets with the O&B executive team about new properties, where they talk about design, carpet, chairs, glassware, uniforms, what suppliers to use, etc.!     She is responsible for the financials, and she negotiates contracts, so she is also close with the sales team.

Every day is a little different for Krista, with communication being a big part of it.   She is responsible for the operational execution at the stores:  making sure brand standard are up to spec, i.e. meat cuts, cupcakes, etc. And she is responsible for the performance of team, in addition to financial accountability, sales, shrink, margin, & controllable expenses.  She spends a lot of time with her store managers, to make sure they understand where they are & creating development plans to strengthen their competencies in leadership and execution.   Even though Sobey’s is selling food, it’s truly a people business.

In food manufacturing, Nancy has more regular days than the others.  She attends a daily production meeting where the management team discusses what’s happening out on the floor, are the shipments on time, what’s happening with purchasing & inventory.   Then throughout the day, she has various meetings and interviews.  She is in the plant everyday to meet with the employees, because they can’t get away from their machines.  She has to be ready to handle any surprise that may come up: be it an employee issue, health & safety issue, or the MOL can walk in, and she has to drop everything to handle it.   You have to be flexible & adaptable to manage that.

Every job has its challenges.  How do you overcome them?

Nancy:  recruiting for the factory is a challenge.  People don’t understand fully what it is to be in food manufacturing.  There are so many things to think about from food safety, to health & safety, and operating a machine, the cost of ingredients, productivity.   To help the industry overcome this, Nancy has been involved with 2 groups that have government funding to get people working in food processing, so that they have more training & certification to be qualified to work in the food industry.

Krista’s challenge has been being a female in a primarily male-dominated industry.  She finds that you have to know what you’re talking about, and show that you’re here to support them.

Working with chefs can be a big challenge for Nicole, in that they have different ideas of how to run your team.  But she finds that the mentality of back-of house to front of house is closing in – more respect is happening.  Another challenge is maintaining the reputation of the company, as everyone expects that it will be a flawless experience, and you need to meet those expectations.  Communication is a challenge, making sure everyone is on the same page.

Joanna also finds that meeting expectations of customers is a challenge.  However, if you do make mistakes, you need to find ways to get over it to make the experience positive.

Despite the challenges, there are successes!

Helping to build the partnership between Sobey’s & Jamie Oliver has been a highlight for Krista over the last couple of years, having him travel to the stores & meet the people.   Second – When you have “opportunity” employees and you invest time & programs in them & you see them succeed – when they become better than us, that’s a great feeling.

Nadege finds that giving emotion to people shows her success.  She tells a story of a woman who was buying a croissant everyday for 5 days in a row, for her son who was in the hospital nearby.  The first time her son bit into the croissant, he started to smile with happiness.   Stories like that make you feel good, that what you’re doing is worthwhile.

Being elected to the Chair of WFIM is a success story for Nancy.  Volunteering in some capacity is a good thing when you have the time to do it.  WFIM is all volunteers, from marketing to writing the cheques.  Nancy finds that being a volunteer is a great experience – whether it’s in your industry or not.

Nicole – before fully launching the catering division, she won an event, and afterwards, she met with the executive team for the event, and he said that his only mistake was not selecting her the year before!

What Advice do these leaders have for students today?

Joanna – There is nothing stopping you…do what it takes to make it happen.  Work for free.  Talk to people. People are very open & willing to talk to you.

Nadege – You have to be passionate to be in the kitchen as a pastry chef.  Work hard to move up.  Maybe if the kitchen isn’t the right place, there are other opportunities, in the office, project management, social media, that you can do in the food industry.

Nicole – Find a company that aligns with your values & what you believe in.  Respect for food, and respect for the people you work with.  If the decision is right for me, then I know its right for the company.   And, work your ass off all the way.  You are your own brand.   There is always something that can go wrong, so you have to be present and be prepared to handle anything.

Krista – Mentorship – reach out.  Whether it’s your own business, marketing, operations etc.  A great place to reach out is WFIM.  Its food, we’re passionate about it. People are very willing to help out.   Find out where your passion fits within the organization.

Nancy – Transferable skills – even if you do something in a completely unrelated industry, it can be transferable into food.  Also, flexibility. Be flexible, willing & able to do whatever it takes to a get the job done, and to move your career ahead to help the company to survive & grow.

Louisa – Building relationships.   People really want to help you, want to encourage young talent.

Finally, a few questions from the students:

Has there been mentor  that helped you in your career?  Louisa formed a relationship with a mentor who helped form her career.  Krista has always had a mentor, but finds that the person will change over time with the focus of her development.   Nancy is currently mentoring 2 people in HR, and hopes what she is able to give back will help them in their careers.

Work-life balance: Nadege says you need to love what you do and be passionate about it, so that the hours don’t matter.  Krista found that early in her career she was poor at it, but now she realizes that it helps to schedule everything.    Nicole worked ridiculous hours when she was younger.  She says with experience, you get better at delegating & managing your people, your time.  You make the choices of what you want to happen in your life.  Nicole & Nancy also both agree that it is easier to balance if your partner is also in the food industry.

Is education a competitive advantage?  Nancy recruits for many  different positions, and finds that anyone that has co-op experience seems to be  more qualified than others with the same education.  As Joanna mentioned, work for free, or volunteer:  students need to gain experience to build the skills that are transferable. You need to know what skills you need.  Nicole says that her personality & drive got her where she is.  When she is hiring, she is looking for personality, because she knows that she can train the skills that are required.  Louisa suggest that you need to be able to show how you use the skills you’ve learned.  Nancy says that having an education shows that you can learn, and it definitely shows that you can complete a task!

Kosher 101


That’s just not kosher!

WFIM members & guests had an enlightening networking session with Richard Rabkin, Director at COR (Kashruth Council of Canada). Richard’s presentation was entitled “Kosher 101”, but with all of our technical questions, it certainly turned into Kosher PhD.!

“That’s just not kosher.” You may have heard or even used that expression before but do you really know what “kosher” is? If you listen closely, you’ll even hear it at the end of the Clash’s song “Rock the Casbah”. The word kosher has certainly penetrated into our lexicon.


Basically, kosher means “fit for consumption”. It is a set of rules that are set out in the Bible and Talmud. It also makes one think “You are what you eat!”

Here are the basics of kosher food:

  1. Animals – have to have split hooves, and chew its cud (you can google “chew the cud” to learn the exact definition). Why chewing cud? It appears that the animal is thinking, ruminating (you are what you eat). Cows, goats & lambs are kosher, if they are slaughtered following the ritual process called “shechita”. Shechita is slaughter by a trained rabbi with a knife so sharp that it doesn’t even contain the slightest nick so that the animal does not suffer unnecessarily, even for a split second. The animal also can’t be sick at the time of slaughter, and that is usually discovered through an investigation of the lungs.  Pigs, horses & rabbits are examples of animals that are not kosher
  2. Birds – chicken, turkey, duck are kosher. Scavenger birds (ostrich, hawk, vulture) are not…you are what you eat.
  3. Kosher seafood – has to have fins and scales, such as salmon, pollack, tilapia. Not the bottom feeders such as catfish, shark, shellfish. White fish has to be purchased with the fins on, so that you can properly identify it.
  4. Cheese must be kosher certified – contain vegetable rennet which is poured by a person of Jewish faith.
  5. Insects are not kosher.   Richard advised that fruits & vegetables be thoroughly soaked, agitated & examined to ensure they do not have insects on them. Broccoli & raspberries are usually infested! Watch out for natural red colour in food products – this comes from the carmine beetle.
  6. Wine & grape juice have an important role in Jewish holidays and rituals, making it especially important that they are kosher.   The entire wine making process – crushing, pressing, transferring to tanks, spigot testing – must be completed by people of Jewish faith. Richard gave us the heads up that we will soon be able to get kosher wine from the Niagara region!

A few more rules that make kosher tricky to follow:

  1. Each ingredient used to make a food must also be kosher. Ingredients such a gelatin (usually from pigs), glycerin, lipase, fatty acids, tallow, pepsin, civet (cat, beaver), are not kosher.
  2. Meat & diary must be strictly kept separate.   Not just in the recipes that you make, but to the extent of different dishes, and even dishwashers, must be used.   There are even some kosher appliances on the market today!


Here’s some tips for manufacturers:

  1. If using kosher gelatin in your product, ensure the ingredient label states Kosher Gelatin.
  2. Kosher product cannot be processed in non-kosher equipment if it is also used for hot processes unless the equipment is “kosherized”: be thoroughly cleaned, kept in a 24 hour abeyance, boiled at 100C or using a direct flame. Cross-contamination occurs when non-kosher “flavor” is conducted from the vessel to the food.
  3. There is no restriction on when kosher products can be manufactured, unless you are Jewish – people of the Jewish faith cannot “own” leavened products or leavening agents during Passover, in which case, COR facilitates contracts where Jewish business owners “sell” their leavened products to a non Jewish appointee for the duration of Passover.

Richard tells two stories about Jewish people “selling” their businesses during Passover:

One business owner “sold” his food business to a police officer during Passover. The business was broken into during the course of the officer owning it. Therefore, the police officer volunteered to press charges – he “owned” the business during the time of the break in after all. The police department didn’t think that that was quite “kosher”, and the business man had to find someone else to “sell” the business to the next year.

Another story – A business was “sold” to a non-Jewish man, who was married to a Jewish woman. No one felt that this would be a problem. Until the head rabbi of the certifying agency woke up in the middle of the night and thought – what happens if, God forbid, the business owner dies during Passover, in which case the business would be transferred to the Jewish wife! The only remedy to this problem said the rabbi: pray that the man didn’t die.


What does all of this mean to food manufacturers?

According to the Kashruth Council of Canada, the kosher food industry has grown dramatically of late with over $200 billion of kosher certified food products being sold globally every year. One reason for this explosion in kosher food products has been the increase in both Jewish and non-Jewish kosher consumers.

There are 15 million actively kosher consumers in North America. And, 28% of Americans have knowingly bought kosher food. Yet, only 15% of kosher consumers are Jewish.   Vegans & vegetarians buy kosher food, as do people who follow Halal. People who are looking for quality, healthy, and safe products also choose kosher. The kosher seal is as good as the ‘good housekeeping seal’: to consumers, the COR stands for kosher quality.

99% of kosher consumers would buy a desired product if it became kosher. Richard tells of eyeing a certain brand of chocolate bars in the grocery store: “Why can’t I have you?” he says, patiently waiting & hoping for the manufacturer to become kosher certified.

COR certifies over 70,000 products at over 1000 facilities now. In fact, over one-third of products in North American supermarkets are kosher. Here’s few that might surprise you:

Pepsi, Gatorade, Heinz, Lays, Nestle ice cream (but not their chocolate bars)


After being enlightened by Richard’s presentation, I checked out the food I ate for breakfast the next morning – both my cereal & milk were kosher certified!


One last thing, what does COR stand for?…Council of Rabbis.



Developing Your Team and Yourself

Developing your team and yourself

WFIM was lucky to have Krista Payne, Sobey’s Director of Operations, Multi-Format Operations, speak at our January Networking event. Krista tells her story of “accidentally landing in grocery retail”, instead of pursuing a pharmaceutical career.

KristaPayne Empire picSobey's Logo

Krista Payne, Director of Operations, Multi-Format Operations, Sobey’s

Krista has been with Sobey’s now for 6 years, and recalls being the first female District Operations Manager. She had to clear the air with the gentlemen at the table, to relieve them (and herself) of the stigma of female leadership.  Krista now supports the female managers on the Sobey’s team through their Store Manager in Training Program, and with her own leadership style.

2015 - January 258

Krista Payne, and several SMIT’s who attended the WFIM event.


Krista shared her leadership philosophy with us – appreciation; strategy; humility; be present; share; speak up, but be quiet when needed.

Here are her top 6 leadership strategies in developing teams:

  1. Care about them.   Leaders need to have high energy and a positive attitude. You need to know the people on your team, and relate to them in an open and friendly manner. Actively listen, build their confidence, and have faith in them.
  2. Communicate. Set clear expectations, minimize uncertainty. Encourage effective interaction and contribution of everyone. Ask open ended questions. Have a participative management style. Remove the emotions. Provide regular feedback.
  3. Coach. Support their development. Break the vision down. Focus on team excellence, not ego. Know when to cheer & when to challenge. Reinforce the behavior you want repeated.
  4. Stretch your team. Empower them to make decisions. Focus on unlocking the potential of each teammate. Encourage out of the box thinking. Create a culture of continuous improvement…with some calculated risk taking. Hands off – don’t micro manage. Delegate to the right level of responsibility.
  5. Talent Management & Succession Planning. Choose your team. Identify successors and provide appropriate development opportunities. Plan your moves. Work collaboratively with all stakeholders. Build relationship. Showcase appropriate behavior, approach and expectations.
  6. Make the tough decisions. Be responsible (you won’t be popular). Have the difficult conversations. Be consistent. Hold your team accountable. Have a sense of urgency with emerging issues. Role model the expectation.

Krista also discussed the importance of self development. Here are 4 steps to follow:

  1. Manage your own well-being. Self discipline and management is the key here. Along with career satisfaction, you need social relationships, community involvement, solutions for health, exercise & rest, and you need to understand your finances.   (WFIM is a great place for social relationships & community involvement!)
  2. Mentorship. Enlist a mentor. Everyone needs support in navigating their career, no matter what level you are at. Mentors can help hold you accountable, and help you to succeed if you do the work. You can gain access to your mentor’s network, learn from their real world experience, and expand your leadership abilities.
  3. Be a mentor. This allows you to gain insight into future members of your profession, and provides opportunities to build your leadership skills.
  4. Take ownership of your own development. Have an individual development plan to reach your short and long term goals. Never stop learning!

“Leadership is not a title. It is a behavior. Live it” (Robin Sharma).  Krista’s philosophy certainly speaks clearly to that.   Every woman (and man) in the room was able to take something away from Krista’s presentation, to allow them to develop and support themselves & their team.

2015 - January 247

Brenda Seto (WFIM’s Event Team Chair), Krista Payne, Nancy Klassen (WFIM Chair)

The 11th Annual North American Food Safety Summit

The Food Safety Summit provides an opportunity for Manufacturers and Processors, and those up and down the value chain, together with service providers, government agencies and suppliers to connect on all issues related to the conference focus. It is a perfect opportunity to learn the latest in legislative updates, to gain insight from peer best practices, and to hear from industry experts.

This Summit enables participants to readily engage with industry leaders, learn from experiences and best practices in an effort to adapt to the evolving demands of North America’s food industry.  It presents a perfect opportunity to hear the latest findings on North America’s most notable food recalls and source prevention strategies and witness how leading food manufacturers are ensuring food safety across the supply chain.

It’s going to be a great two-day event that tackles issues relating to food safety such as:

* Recall Prevention: Learn from major recalls and source strategies to prevent future ones
* Traceability: Ensure product safety at every step of the supply chain
* Systems Management: Implement programs to contain food safety hazards from farm to fork
* Education and Training: Assess the value of academic and industry-driven initiatives
* Sanitation: Source proven methods and technologies to preserve hygienic conditions
* Emerging Pathogens: Scientific innovations in detection and eradication of microorganisms
* Risk Mitigation: Improve machinery design and cross-contamination risk tools
* Social Media: Refine risk communication procedures and digitally engage consumers
* Allergen Control: Accurately label your products to protect all consumers
* Consumer Demand: Transform your safety procedures to meet consumer expectations

This year’s Pre-Conference Workshop will be help on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 and will be focusing on Strengthening Supply Chain Traceability and Complying with GFSI Standards to be Audit-Ready.

Each day will include a variety of case studies and panel discussions and regulatory updates. Leaders and industry experts will be joining us from Starbucks Coffee Canada, Loblaw Academy, Metro, Chick-fil-A, Nadja Foods, Samworth Brothers Quality Foods (UK), Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, Trophy Foods, Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety – University of Guelph, Canadian Food & Wine Institute – Niagara College, XL Foods Recall Review Panel and Windsor Foods.

2015 Event Highlights:

•    Exclusive insights from 20+ leaders in Food Safety
•    10 Practical Solutions to your challenges
•    Latest updates on safety standards from CFIA and USDA
•    6 in-depth Case Studies from leading local and international companies
•    Best practices from top food businesses, key regulators, and academic leaders
•    Vital information on GFSI Standards and Supply Chain Traceability

Without a doubt – this will be an excellent, excellent Summit full of opportunities!

The 11th Annual North American Food Safety Summit ( is scheduled for March 4th and 5th, 2015 and will be held at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. More detailed information and a complete Agenda overview is available online and if you are interested in joining us, please use VIP code WFIM20 – we would love to see you there!

Three Easy Ways to Register:
Register Online @
Call: (866) 298-9343 ext 200 (Toll Free)

All the best as always!


Bren de Leeuw, Director of Events
WFIM – Women in Food Industry Management – 519-396-6521

Breakfast with Champions

WFIM holds an annual “Academy Roundtable” where our members and guests have the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by industry leaders. This year’s Academy theme was “Breakfast with Champions”.  After networking and having a wonderful omelet breakfast made fresh in front of us by the International Center’s chefs, we got down to business.  In three intimate round table sessions, we had the opportunity to meet with the leaders to discuss the importance of Trust, Responsibility and Positivity for success.

Our 2014 Champions:


Sharon Beals, V.P. Food Safety, QA & Technical Services, Maple Leaf Foods

Isabelle Hemond, Director, Food Category Management, Starbucks Coffee Canada

Joanne Hillion, Vice President Sales, Food Division, Mars Canada Inc.

Anna Janes, President & Founder, Cocomira Confections Inc.

Rosanne Longo, Spokesperson and Brand Ambassador, Longo’s

Nadja Piatka, President & CEO, Nadja Foods

Maureen Taylor, President, The Ingredient Company

Ursula Wydymus, Director of Operations, Contract Manufacturing, Nestle Canada Inc.

November 2014 089

Our 2014 Champions with WFIM’s Chair, Nancy Klassen, and the Academy Co-Chairs Nadine Farran-Gatti and Mary Jezerinac.


Round One: TRUST


According to the 2013 Edelman Barometer of Trust, less than 1/5 of the general public believes that a business leader can be trusted to tell the truth or make an ethical decision.


People tend to trust two groups of people:

  1. Experts and Analysts
  2. Colleagues and Peers


Rosanne Longo shared that “the values of honesty, trustworthiness and mutual respect are the values that our founders built the business on and have remained the foundation of how we do business. As it is engrained in our DNA and such a significant part of the culture at Longo’s, our leadership styles and characteristics include: leading by example, living the values and walking the talk and continuing to treat people the way we want to be treated whether you are a team member, a customer or a vendor or community partner.”

Sharon Beals agreed, and shared that “communication, integrity and knowledge drive trust, and that core values should be honesty by demonstrating, and practicing what you preach”.

Anna Janes discussed how building collaborative relationships with vendors, suppliers, and consumers helps leaders gain trust. A familiar face that ensures two-way communication – even through social media – is a trustworthy one.



From the book titled The Law of Success, “No one may become a real leader in any walk of life without practicing the habit of doing more work and better work than that for which [she] is paid.” Being able to start something and follow through until it is completed is a key to long-term success.

Nadja Piatka shared her story of responsibility to her family when she was a single mother hiding under the table from the debt collectors. She knew she had to get up from under it, and she knew she had to work smart to get there.  She did, starting her company in her kitchen, and turning it into a multi-million dollar company that is now a supplier to international food companies such as Subway and McDonald’s.

Sharon Beals motto is”trust but verify” – let people do their work, and hold them accountable for it. That’s what makes a responsible leader.

The best advice Rosanne Longo has on this front was left by her late Uncle Tommy, one of the 3 founders of Longo’s. He lived and preached the words “Always do the right thing…especially when no one is looking.”



Negative thoughts result in average performance.


A great percentage of successful people have all experienced some sort of setback or failure. Instead of stopping their journey at this point of difficulty or failure, they adapted a positive mental attitude about themselves and their abilities, which gave them the power to move forward and reach their goals.

Sharon Beals shared that she is inspired by people who are committed to life-long learning, and people who overcome adversity. This inspiration helps to keep her positive outlook.


Isabelle Hemond discussed what our triggers are for negativity, how to identify them, and how to overcome them. Having a family member or colleague willing and able to help you identify those triggers can be a great resource to help you remain positive.


For herself and her role, Rosanne Longo hopes that she inspires the people around her by remaining positive despite challenges, remaining grateful every day for the all the good that we have and to look at any challenges as opportunities and find the silver lining, no matter how small.




Gaining the trust of your employees, customers, vendors and suppliers, while taking the responsibility and being accountable, and maintaining a positive outlook are all keys to successful leadership.

Special thanks to Nadine & Mary, and all of the volunteers who helped execute an amazing, inspirational event!


“Before you are a leader,

success is all about growing yourself.

When you become a leader,

success is about growing others.”

– Jack Welch




Molecular Cuisine

You have probably heard of Avant-Garde Cuisine, but what about Molecular Cuisine?  Huh?  I knew nothing about this fascinating scientific approach to cooking before I attended the Women in Food Industry Management (WFIM) networking event featuring Chef John Placko at Humber College in October.   And the attendees at the event were either huge Chef Placko/molecular cuisine fans, or had no idea what they were getting into that night.

Molecular cuisine (or gastronomy) investigates the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur during cooking. It is a modern style of cooking and uses many technical & chemical innovations.  Chef Placko shared with us the three key elements to molecular cuisine: modern kitchen ingredients, unique equipment, and precise techniques.

One not so modern ingredient that was used was Sunflower Oil, which Chef Placko says is a great product to use because it doesn’t alter the taste of the main ingredients (The National Sunflower Association was a sponsor for the event – with Melon Pearls

Spherification was an interesting technique that Chef Placko used to make the Proscuitto with melon pearls that we tasted.  This process used ingredients such as Sodium Alginate and Calcium Chloride.

We also tasted Genoa salami with whipped parmesan cheese and black olive crumbs.  How do you whip parmesan cheese?  Chef Placko showed us this Aeration technique using sodium citrate and then placed into a siphon whip with 35% cream. And black olive crumbs? That’s a dehydration process.

genoa salami w whipped parmesan & black olive crumbs

Next on the menu was Sous vide turkey, cranberry foam, sous vide butternut squash, turkey snow, turkey skin crackling, stuffing micro sponge.  This was Thanksgiving dinner “deconstructed”!

turkey dinnerSous vide is basically a water bath, that uses pressure, temperature and time to cook the product. The benefit of this technique was an extremely moist, tender turkey breast! To create Turkey “snow” Chef Placko added malto-dextrin (a starch, usually from corn or tapioca, with no discernable flavor) to turkey fat to turn it into a delicate powder. Once this powder hits your tongue, it’s all gravy from there! The stuffing micro sponge was fun to watch Chef Placko create.  The stuffing was aerated, and then microwaved.  It literally looked like a sponge, and tasted like mom’s stuffing.  The cranberry foam was created using the ingredient versawhip.

carrot ice cream

Finally, dessert. Liquid nitrogen carrot ice cream, white chocolate snow, lemon fluid gel, flexible caramel, shattered raspberry and carbonated strawberry. Carrot ice cream?   It was delicious!  Chef Placko and his team made the ice cream right in front of us, using liquid nitrogen.   The carrot puree he used was from Canadian Prairie Garden (

The lemon fluid gel was made with agar and xanthan gum. And the flexible caramel was made with a blend of iota and kappa carrageenan. You see these items on ingredient lists all the time, but who knew what you could possibly do with them in your own kitchen?

Our eyes have been opened, and our taste buds mesmorized! But without investing in specialized equipment to use these techniques at home, where can we get more? Many restaurants feature menus of molecular cuisine.  Moto (Chicago), Noma (Copenhagen), The Fat Duck (UK), El Cellar de Can Roca (Spain), Alinea (Chicago), and Minibar (Washington DC).   Soon we won’t have to travel so far to find molecular cuisine:  Chef Placko is opening his own molecular gastronomy restaurant at the Pearson International Airport!

The next thing to investigate: Molecular Mixology!