2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Justin Garibaldi

Age: 39
Category Director
Loblaw Companies Ltd
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Garibaldi has 23 years of extensive experience within the Canadian produce industry including store level retail, quality assurance, supply chain, retail merchandising and wholesale procurement. He started his career in 1997 at Zehrs (now part of the Loblaw family) in Kitchener at 15 years old while looking for a steady job to get him through college. Since then, he has held various positions throughout all levels of the business. For the past 10 years, he has been category director in both merchandising and procurement where he has developed many strong relationships, both internally and within the grower community. He was awarded Passion for Produce in 2010 and was honored to represent Loblaw as a future leader. As a category leader, he has successfully developed, coached, and mentored two merchants into category directors as well as two associate merchants into merchants.

Garibaldi has consistently pushed the envelope and raised the benchmark on produce quality and availability, driving better assortment and value to the Canadian produce consumer. He has also leveraged his strong leadership skills to develop his team. During his tenure at Loblaws, he sourced and negotiated Canada’s first $1.00 1-pound Strawberry promotion in 2011, developed new shipping lanes to reduce transit time on bananas and reduce overall cost of shipping, and led and managed a local-focused Grown Close to Home marketing program for four years. He has championed initiatives to drive procurement direct to the grower source, reducing middle men, handling and dwell time of the product and ultimately driving better freshness and value to the end customer. He also implemented berry refrigeration initiatives across an entire division of stores resulting in savings in shrink and improvement in product quality and shelf life. He developed and introduced a series of innovative and impactful items to the Canadian market including President’s Choice Green House Grown Strawberries, President’s Choice Flavor Burst Blueberries and President’s Choice Orri Mandarins.

Hobbies: Hockey, Baseball

Personal/Community: PC Children’s Charity

Motto in life: “Live life well.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
My grandfather was also a produce buyer for National Grocers back in the 1960s and 1970s along with my great grandfather who had a fruit stand in Italy. So it’s been in my roots for centuries.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
I wish I had the insight and vision when I first started to see the opportunity of local and what it means to our Canadian consumer. I mean recognizing everything from selling and marketing locally grown produce to supporting and building long term sustainable relationships with local growers to help build affordable, best tasting, quality produce for our consumer.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
My greatest challenge was the transition from stores to office. I enjoyed the face-to-face interaction with customers and had built many relationships through the years. Not having that on a daily basis was difficult. Although the realization soon came when I saw the impact I had from the office and how I was servicing our consumers indirectly. Sourcing and providing value and consistent quality produce day in and day out was very rewarding.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
One of my greatest accomplishments was being awarded the Passion for Produce award in 2010. At the time I was very young, driven and eager to progress to the category director level and this was affirmation for me —knowing was meant to do. Passion for Produce was a great program and I was honored to represent Loblaw as a future leader.