I am happy to share our latest edition in our Follow My Path blog series. @Patty McCormack is the National Sales Manager at Champion Foods and a long-time member of the IDDBA What’s in Store Live team. Thank you, Patty, for sharing your story.
8. Lastly, what’s your guilty food pleasure?Avocado! On toast, in salads and smoothies, and obviously in the best food ever, guacamole.
1. Describe your journey that brought you to your current position.
My journey started with a college marketing internship at El Pollo Loco while I was a cast member at Disneyland. A fellow ex-Disneyland cast member in the food industry asked me if I wanted to interview for an assistant marketing manager position at a foodservice brokerage company in Hollywood, CA. I went from a foodservice marketing manager to a sales representative at Alex-Orval Kent Foods selling refrigerated deli salads to Southern California grocery chains and distributors.
While at Orval Kent, I was fortunate to make connections with Reser’s Fine Foods at an industry event, which led to a regional sales manager position. My role included both retail grocery and foodservice distributor sales responsibilities in both California and Nevada. After a few years, I was promoted to national sales manager. I was responsible for making Walmart corporate sales calls for over 20 years in multiple departments including deli, dairy, bakery, and wall deli. The sales growth we experienced was phenomenal as Walmart and Reser’s products gained momentum and spread across the US, which was very exciting to be apart of.
In 2014, I decided that I needed to take a risk and expand upon my food-selling expertise, so I went to work as a national sales manager for Champion Foods, a division of Ilitch Holdings Inc, the company comprised of Little Caesars, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Tigers. My journey continues, but I’ve felt so fortunate to have gained both national and international sales experience and logged nearly 4-million hard-earned business travel miles.
2. How long have you been in your current role and describe how your work contribute to your company and impact the industry?
I have been in my current role for six years. Champion Foods manufactures frozen dough products including multiple pizza varieties and cheesy breadstick options. Recently, we’ve had incredible success with our Motor City Pizza Company Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza line in frozen grocery. I’m responsible for engaging, servicing, and managing relationships with several of the top country’s grocery retailers, convenience stores, discount retailers, including Costco club stores – where the Motor City Pizza Company Deep Dish Pizza line has experienced this success I mentioned earlier, over the last several months. In addition, I coordinate all aspects of product sales and presentations including forecasting and budgeting, product launches, setting promotions, distribution, overseeing brokers, and merchandising. Needless to say, I move a lot of product and enjoy doing it, and as we’ve all seen, the COVID pandemic has impacted our business immensely with millions of Americans looking to provide easy-to-make, turn-key meals for their families.
3. What has surprised you most when you started in the field?
When I started my career, I had virtually zero knowledge about the food industry. As I gained experience, I was surprised by the inner workings of the food supply chain – the food distribution channels from farm/field, to manufacturer, to distributor, to retailer, to consumers’ plates. I also love keeping up with food industry trends, including how diverse those trends and consumer preferences are across the country, and have found that I have a real penchant for selling, servicing, and merchandising these types of products. Whether it’s local, national, seasonal, environmental, cultural, or influenced by social media – I’m always reminded how multifaceted food is and how much there is to learn as these trends evolve.
4. How has your career and/or personal journey shaped you as a current industry professional?
One of my biggest takeaways from my personal and professional journey (and advice I’d give to others) is to approach life as a life-long learner. I had no idea of all the various avenues and career paths available in the food universe, so I pushed myself to learn, build, and adapt to industry driven changes, opportunities, and yes – challenges like the one we are going through right now. It can be easy to be complacent, but if you approach life in the mindset of being a continual student, it can be surprising how that mental shift can open up doors you didn’t know existed. As an anecdote, several years ago, I thought I wanted to become a teacher, so I went back to school for my master’s degree. Teaching didn’t end up being my bailiwick, but I look back and appreciate how my life was enriched by going through that exercise, which then helped me double down on my commitment to being a food industry professional. After that, doors continued to open for me, and I gained a new appreciation for the industry.
5. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
With millions and miles logged on the road, I am so grateful for the friends and contacts I have made over the course of my career. Whether I’m working a food show or pitching a presentation, and no matter which state I happen to be in, I always make dinner plans or catch a ballgame with one of my industry pals. There’s a whole network of friends and contacts out there, and these relationships make the job more worthwhile –especially when you’re on the road and away from your loved ones.
6. What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in the food industry?
7. How has IDDBA impacted you professionally?
- Set real short and long-term goals and objectives for yourself. Without goals and objectives, it’s really tough to look back and measure against the outcomes you actually achieved. This could be something about your role like “I’m going to develop the leadership skills to lead a team this year” or about your business “we have a goal to sell $10 M of product this year.” From there, work back and understand the key steps you need to take to get there. Set timelines for yourself and be disciplined. It’s so much more rewarding to look back and have achieved the goals you set rather than just lucking out and doing things at random.
- Connect with people. Make a concerted effort to meet people at industry events, job fairs, professional development meetings, or even at happy hour (yes – virtual happy hour counts). You never know what doors will be opened by expanding your circle. Treat these people as your friends – learn about their backgrounds, their families, and what makes them tick. They’re not just a business card – they’re people – and you will stand out if you meet them where they’re at and listen to their insights and knowledge.
- Be a life-long learner. Hate to break it to you, but you don’t know everything about everything. Join a webinar about a random subject that interests you, go back to school and get that accreditation you’ve been thinking about for years, call up your kids and talk to them about a thought-provoking topic. Be open to learning new things and don’t wait for tomorrow to start.
An ex-Walmart deli buyer helped to recruit me to the IDDBA’s What’s in Store Live Team (Formerly Show & Sell Team), and I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity. The connections I’ve made through IDDBA have helped me with so many aspects of my business – I’ve met deli/foods buyers, distributors, broker reps, chefs, manufacturers reps, display and food merchandising associates, and food professionals. So needless to say, I cannot say enough positive things about the IDDBA as an organization: great industry contacts, supportive staff, unparalleled and useful training resources, and unforgettable memories over the last 15 years.
Last September, with the support of the IDDBA managers, I attended the Advanced Management and Leadership, Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison certification program. The program focused on the food supply chain, management and leadership, marketing, and food trends. Overall, an invaluable experience.