2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Becky Fanion

Age: 30

Category Manager, Vegetables
Stop & Shop
Quincy, MA

Hometown: Mechanicsburg, PA
Hobbies: Traveling, Powerlifting, Writing, Trying new restaurants, Live music, Pets
Family/Community: New England Produce Council Board Member
Motto in life: “If I was the man… then I’d be the man.” — Taylor Swift

Fanion is the category manager of vegetables at Stop & Shop, a regional chain of supermarkets with 406 stores in the northeastern U.S. At Stop & Shop, she has consistently advocated for taking a data-based approach to managing in-store merchandising, assortment, and price/promo for the produce department, helping grow the total business 2% since 2018.

She was exposed to the grocery retail business at an early age, having both a grandfather and father in the business. Before attending Boston University in 2010, she worked as a service associate at her local Giant Food Store in Mechanicsburg, PA. During the summers when she was home from college, she interned at Acosta Sales & Marketing in its Mechanicsburg office. After graduating from Boston University with a degree in English, she began working full-time as a client business manager at Acosta in its Marlborough, MA, office. She later worked in trade marketing and sales for Ocean Spray Cranberries and Hydralyte.

She was hired in 2017 by Stop & Shop as assistant category manager of value-add produce, and was promoted to category manager in 2019. As category manager for the value-add desk, she ushered in innovation in packaged salad, produce beverages, and healthy alternatives, leading to a combined growth of $31.6 million in those categories from 2019 to 2021. She was also instrumental in the launch of Ahold Delhaize’s Central Fresh Kitchen, a key partner to Stop & Shop’s produce department since 2019. She moved to the vegetable desk in 2021, where she implemented a total refresh of Stop & Shop’s wet wall merchandising standards in 2022. She was nominated for the Southeastern Produce Council’s Next Generation Award in 2021 for her work on the value-add desk at Stop & Shop. In April 2023, she was named to the board of the New England Produce Council.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
It’s OK not to know everything when you are starting out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — that’s how you learn.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
I am a very introverted person, so building relationships has always been the most challenging part of my career. Luckily, people in the produce industry are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, and I’ve built a lot of great working relationships as well as friendships in this industry over the years.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
I wish people knew all the work that went into getting fresh produce on their tables, and how passionate everyone is about getting it there. I’ve never met someone in the produce industry who didn’t love being in the produce industry.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
The pandemic brought the biggest change, not only to consumer behaviors, but also to the way we work. Weekly video calls have helped me build even better relationships with my suppliers. I’ve had to change the way I manage people. It will be interesting to see what new habits stick as we return to the office three days a week this year at Stop & Shop.

Q: What do you see as a critical issue facing the industry in the next decade and why?
Climate change. We are already seeing the impacts out West in the markets. Growers will need to be resourceful and innovative to keep up with demand.