Global Food & Retail Supply Chain Business Development Director
In October 2018, Alethea Kirkwood responded to a job-posting headline that read, “Are you passionate about keeping food safe, sustainable and socially responsible?” The answer to the question for her was a resounding “Yes”. While cultivating a 20+ year career in the food and beverage industry, Alethea has had the pleasure to work in many facets of the food sector while collaborating with internal and external stakeholders, to not only achieve operational goals but also excel in delivering market execution, knowledge and best practices. Alethea says that joining BSI as a Global Food and Retail Supply Chain Business Development Director affords her the opportunity to address key issues affecting the food sector and answer the call to help food manufacturers keep “food safe, sustainable and socially responsible.”
Q: What’s your background within the food industry?
A: I began my food service career with Coca-Cola North America in 1997 as an Account Manager working with local market food operators. I began my tenure with Coca-Cola North America in a local market manager role and was promoted to Senior Sales Executive, managing Regional and National account customer portfolios in the Western Region for ten years. In addition to supporting businesses through marketing the Coca-Cola brand, I wore many hats and developed and deployed business-building ideas inclusive of co-branded marketing campaigns, recycling programs, community sustainability, and employee engagement and retention programs. In 2007 I was recruited by Nestle Professional Culinary Division to direct the $200 million US Custom Culinary National Account portfolio, supporting National Account Managers and National Account Chefs. As a Category Channel Development Manager, I was responsible for leading and driving the commercial planning and marketing process to ensure cross-functional participation and alignment for National Chain Account customers. From Nestle, I returned to Coca-Cola as a member of the Executive Leadership Team in the role of Sales Capability Manager, working in the Mountain States Market Unit retail division, supporting the growth efforts of retail grocery and convenience store chains. In this capacity, I led the sales teams by developing and implementing coaching, training and certification in an effort to exceed business targets. After working for the world's largest soft-drink and food companies, I broadened my skillset to incorporate brand marketing by working for Burger King Corporation as a Field Marketing Manager in the US Central Division; there I was responsible for strategic planning, alignment, tactical development, execution, evaluation, and continuous improvement of marketing plans to achieve annual goals.
Q: How does your background help guide your interactions with clients?
A: I believe that my extensive background through the food and beverage industry has been incredibly helpful in my new role with BSI, as I am able to understand so much more about the vast array of solutions that we offer clients throughout the food industry. My background has also afforded me the opportunity to work with some iconic key national brands and introduce solutions to address current, or anticipated, needs while developing meaningful business relationships. I’ve acquired a range of skills covering problem-solving, creativity, logical thinking, analytical approach, teamwork, and leadership. Throughout my career, challenges surfaced that negatively impacted things such as product launch, seasonal menu offering, or marketing campaigns. At the time I was not aware a company [BSI] existed that had the resources which could have eliminated all the aforementioned issues. Knowing what I know today regarding BSI’s risk mitigating intelligence, I have the great pleasure to share our solutions with potential clients and former colleagues that I know are unaware, just as I was in the past. The hallmark of my success has been associated with helping people understand gaps and then presenting resources to close those gaps. Past experiences now translate into me being able to help prospective clients understand hazards that exist and then provide support for their business through the introduction of BSI’s solutions and capabilities that address mitigating risk and driving organizational resilience in the ever-changing industry.
Q: Where do you see the greatest opportunity for manufacturers in the food and retail supply chain? How can BSI help?
A: There are so many areas where BSI is supporting organizations throughout the food and retail supply chain, from addressing key environmental impacts, proactively mitigating health and safety risks, through to engaging organizations on key industry challenges around plastics and packaging waste, which is damaging a large number of food and drink manufacturers’ brands and reputation. While the food manufacturing industry is experiencing growth due to new product innovations in an effort to remain competitive and relevant, companies also need to focus on ensuring they are adhering to specifications for critical materials and ensuring they are in line with operating conditions and not cutting corners just to get products to market quicker. As innovations increase, another area of risk could be a loss of intellectual property, as the manufacturing industry is a prime target for criminal activity due to increased connectivity and a lack of investment in cyber security. Another area of focus for the industry is the reduction of waste and energy during food manufacturing, distribution and delivery. BSI is a proven global industry solutions partner that has the reputation and expertise to address each of these areas of opportunity and beyond. Our supply chain risk intelligence software tools enable organizations to mitigate risks and promote food safety, reducing the probability of disruption in the supply chain, while also protecting the company’s brand image. Through our proprietary workshops, we are able to assess and measure an organization’s corporate culture which will result in creating organizational resilience and food safety and quality culture excellence. In addition, our circular economy standard dictates adherence to guidelines for the reduction of waste, helping organizations make excellence a habit.
To learn more about BSI’s work in the food industry, as well as all the sectors we support, visit bsigroup.com.