LePore 'sparks' innovation at Simmons Pet Food

Lawrence Aylward
Editor In Chief
Lawrence Aylward profile picture
Angela LePore loves animals, which is why she owns two Newfoundlands.

The store brands industry would be a lesser place without them, a much lesser place. The “them” are the nine women being honored as the 2019 Top Women in Store Brands.

These women epitomize what every company in America wants in an A-list employee, no matter the gender. The women being honored this year are diligent, industrious, committed and conscientious, among other superlatives that could be used to describe them.

Each year, Store Brands and Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence (WISE), a professional development organization, solicit nominations from the private brand industry to identify and honor a select few of these women through the Top Women in Store Brands program, which was created to provide well-deserved recognition for female professionals who have achieved exceptional success and bring a passion for store brands to their day-to-day activities.

Beginning today and in subsequent issues of Store Brands Today, we will feature the winners of this year’s Top Women in Store Brands. Today, we profile Angela LePore from Simmons Pet Food, winner of the Sparkplug Award.

ANGELA LEPORE LEFT THE CHICAGO AREA in 2015 after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in animal science to go work for Simmons Pet Food in the small town of Emporia, Kan. But LePore, accustomed to the big-city life, wasn’t so sure about working and living in Emporia, where there are no Cubs, Bears and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

“When I first started with Simmons, I had to keep reminding myself no matter how difficult it was being so far from my family and my home that I needed to give the job at least one year,” she says.

LePore ended up falling in love with her job as a senior food technologist for Simmons, the largest private label co-manufacturer of wet pet food in North America. LePore works with the company’s private brand customers to develop new pet food products based on customers’ brand philosophies and innovation requirements.

“Coming to work every day is easy when you love what you do,” LePore says. “Being part of the Simmons team is exciting and rewarding. We have such a great work environment that is full of people who are truly passionate about what they do.”

In nominating LePore for the Sparkplug Award — given to a woman who is new to store brands (one to five years) and has already made a noticeable impact via professional achievements and personal influence for her company, colleagues, customers and/or the industry — Leah Lambrakis, vice president of the company’s research and development and innovation, said: “Angela was the technical lead in many new key initiatives that Simmons Pet Food rolled out in 2018, and she took each on with drive and passion. She was relentless in making each a success not only for Simmons but most importantly for our customers.”

One of the things driving LePore’s success is her love of animals. She and her mother breed Newfoundland dogs. LePore has two Newfies of her own, who live with her in Emporia.

She approaches her job much like a restaurant chef would in creating nutritional and palate-pleasing food for diners. For her, creating food for pets is an emotional connection. She understands how pet owners use food to bond with their pets. To be a part of that connection is something she takes earnestly.

LePore’s enthusiasm also extends to the retailers she works with to create the formulations they’re seeking. Lambrakis says LePore has embraced the role.

“She fully owns the process, from concept to commercialization,” Lambrakis adds.

There’s no doubt that LePore has added a spark to Simmons Pet Food’s business.

“I try to be enthusiastic with our customers,” she says. “When you’re passionate about something, it can impact the way people react. There is something to be said about creating new products for customers that gives you this sense of accomplishment when you see them on retailers’ store shelves.

“My job allows me to be creative in an industry where innovation is such a driving force,” she adds. “I’m thankful to be part of a team that allows me to explore my creativity on a daily basis.”

Editor’s note:  To select the Top Women in Store Brands honorees, a committee consisting of representatives from both Store Brands and WISE reviews nominations submitted by representatives within the store brand industry. The committee carefully evaluates the nominations, assessing each nominee’s accomplishments.

The award winners will be recognized during WISE’s annual meeting and luncheon on Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. The event coincides with the opening day of the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s Private Label Trade Show. For more information about the meeting, click here.