Soup's on, thanks to Albertsons Cos.' Julie Jevins

Lawrence Aylward
Editor In Chief
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Julie Jevins worked on tight deadlines to open Albertsons Cos.' new soup plant.

The women being honored for the 2019 Top Women in Store Brands epitomize what every company in America wants in an A-list employee, no matter the gender. They 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.

For the next several days in Store Brands Today, we will continue to profile the winners of this year’s Top Women in Store Brands. Today, we profile Julie Jevins from Albertsons Cos., winner of the Functional Expertise: Research and Development/Quality Assurance Award.

SOUP’S ON FOR ALBERTSONS COS., thanks in big part to Julie Jevins, the senior manager of product development for the Boise, Idaho-based retailer.

Jevins was hired by Albertsons Cos. in 2018 to lead the product development and commercialization of a new soup production facility in Riverside, Calif. The plant produces 25 soups that are sold under Albertsons Cos.’ Signature Café private brand line at all of its banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco and others. The plant supplies 70% of Albertson Cos.’ chilled soup.

“This work was not just simple duplication of formulations, but involved adaptation to different manufacturing equipment and challenging reformulations that matched consumer-driven target attributes,” said Vien-An Friedel, director of product development for Albertsons Cos., who nominated Jevins for the award, given to a woman who has made a significant professional contribution to her company and/or the store brands industry through her accomplishments in research and development and quality assurance.

“Julie has proven herself to be able to work under very tight timelines and tremendous pressure to deliver results,” Friedel adds.

When the plant first opened and began making soup for testing in June 2018, there were only five employees, including Jevins, who remembers gathering ingredients and weighing them, and slicing cheese by hand because the plant wasn’t yet equipped with a slicer. They were cooking soup in 3,000-pound batches.

“We were working around the engineers who were installing the first six kettles,” Jevins says. “We trialed all the soups.”

In September 2018, the plant was ready to produce saleable soup and went live. Friedel says Jevins and her team got the plant up and running in a fraction of the normal commercialization time it usually takes in the soup industry.

“It’s a lot less stressful now, but I’m glad I went through [the early stages] because now I understand the pressures the employees in the factory face,” Jevins says, noting the plant now employs more than 100 workers. “If I’m asking them to do something, I know I’ve done it myself.”

Jevins credits several groups from Albertsons Cos. for the project’s success, including the plant’s employees and members of the operations and quality assurance teams as well as the Albertsons Cos.’ Own Brand and product development teams.

Even though the plant has been running for more than a year, Jevins continues “to operate in excellence mode on multiple levels,” Friedel says, noting that Jevins has been on a mission to improve processes.

“Last spring Julie partnered with our strategic sourcing partner to start work on an initiative that is scoped to save over $1 million annually in ingredients alone,” Friedel says.

Jevins has been in the food industry for 35 years. A native of the United Kingdom, she worked in private label for several U.K. retailers before coming to the U.S. nine years ago, where she continued her career in private label. While the U.K. is viewed as being ahead of the U.S. in the growth and development of private branded consumer packaged goods, Jevins says the U.S. market is making significant gains.

“I think market share in the U.S. will keep growing,” she says.

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.