2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Christina Stipe

Age: 37

Director of Produce Merchandising
Price Chopper/Market 32 (Northeast Shared Services)
Schenectady, NY

Hometown: Albany, NY
Hobbies: Softball, Bowling, DIY
Family/Community: Married, 3 children, Youth baseball coach
Motto in life: “It is never wrong to do the right thing.” — Mark Twain

After her first procurement role at TransWorld Entertainment, she joined the Price Chopper team in 2010 as a part of the asset management team. In 2011, she was promoted to junior category manager and then category manager. Over the next five years, she had the opportunity to manage various desks including the HBC, non-foods, and DSD categories before being promoted to director of center store merchandising. In 2016, she transitioned to the director of own brands role, where she had responsibility for both center store and fresh department own brand programming.

After spending two years focusing on developing the company’s PICS and Market 32 brands, she officially joined the fresh merchandising team as director of produce. Most recently, her team implemented a strategic pricing program to focus on driving case volume and value to customers while simultaneously executing an extensive merchandising initiative in nearly half of the fleet.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
Almost five years ago, I was fortunate enough to join the produce team after spending most of my career on the center store side of the grocery business. My background was heavily focused on analytics, and I was initially very excited to see what I could contribute to the team. It didn’t take long though for me to realize the real draw to produce — the people.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Having joined the team in 2018, I almost immediately was exposed to several challenging circumstances in a relatively short amount of time. Total market product withdrawals, a global pandemic, and continued weather-related impacts to crops often made for some creative learning opportunities. It was in those challenges, though, that the true resiliency of the produce industry shone through and fostered an environment to lean on each other to successfully get to the other side.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
I would like consumers to know more about the complexity and intricacies of the produce supply chain. It truly is a global, team effort to source top-grade produce throughout the year.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?
Increasing produce consumption hinges on our ability to provide options that are fun, provide value, and are relevant in our customers’ daily lives. Certainly, value translates to saving consumers money, but value also is making sure that the quality of produce delivers value through reducing waste. Value is saving time and providing solutions. Showing families that fruits and vegetables aren’t just good for you, but that they can be fun, engaging and delicious will create produce lovers for generations to come.

Q: What do you see as a critical issue facing the industry in the next decade and why?
I would categorize supply chain resiliency as a critical issue for us in the next decade, particularly when it comes to weather-related events. We have all seen firsthand the impacts of droughts and flooding in growing regions and the havoc that it plays on quality, availability, and cost inflation. The recent growth of controlled environment agriculture (CEA), while impressive, will need to see significant strides for the scale of expansion to match the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables.