WISE Annual Meeting: Peggy Davies wins first DEI award

The founder of the WISE organization and current president of the PLMA won a new award from WISE and Store Brands, as part of the Top Women in Store Brands awards.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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As part of its virtual annual meeting, Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE) announced an addition to its Top Women in Store Brands program — developed in conjunction with Store Brands — awarding an inaugural winner for the newly formed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award: Peggy Davies, current president of PLMA, and previous WISE board chair.


Davies fittingly earned the award as a pioneer and trailblazer in the industry, spearheading the creation of WISE. She also launched University Outreach in 2017 through her work with PLMA, a program that brings undergraduate students from universities across the country to the PLMA show to learn about the industry.

As announced by current WISE board chair Jen Linke of Federated Group, Davies saw large CPG brands recognizing diversity in the industry and took it upon herself to bring people together and form the basis of WISE, driving its subsequent growth for several years to come. 

Davies joins the nine other winners in the Top Women in Store Brands awards, as selected by WISE and Store Brands, and profiled in-depth here and in the October/November issue of Store Brands.

a young man standing next to a tree
Samantha Hein

The winners joined live during the virtual event to accept the award, including co-workers and family members of Samantha Hein, senior category merchant, exclusive brands, Whole Foods Market, who posthumously earned the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hein, as said during an extremely touching tribute, had her hands involved in 90% of the body care own brand products developed by Whole Foods.

Hein joined eight other winners in the 2021 class:

  • Heather Corkery, senior director of CVS Store Brands, CVS Health — Innovation  Award;
  • Alison Gregas, private brands manager, Weis Markets — Sparkplug Award;
  • Shanaz Ahmed, regulatory affairs manager, Albertsons — Functional Expertise: R&D/QA Award;
  • Mary Conwell, senior director of sales, Sofidel America — Functional Expertise: Sales Award;
  • Pam Ofri, director of product development and operations, Wakefern Food — Functional Expertise: Operations Award
  • Katherine Renn, vice president, commercial finance, Refresco — Functional Expertise: Corporate Services Award;
  • Erin Shirkey, director of supply chain operations, Great Lakes Cheese — Functional Expertise: Supply Chain/Procurement Award;
  • Emily Taylor, EVP, chief merchandising officer, Dollar General — Functional Expertise: Marketing/Merchandising Award.

Additionally, during the virtual WISE annual meeting, Michelle Murphy, data analyst at Federated Group, and a member of the WISE professional development committee, earned the Volunteer of the Year Award. 

The organization also said it is planning a new program called the WISE DEI Learning Series. The organization is looking for partners to help grow diversity and inclusion in the store brands industry via four key areas: First, engage with the younger generation, something already fulfilled through its Junior Board, led by Phyllis Johnson of Catalina. Secondly, help HR personnel attract and retain diverse employees. Thirdly, assist leadership at organizations to lead and motivate diverse teams; and lastly provide education and content for all WISE members. For example, a free service for paid dues members of WISE, an HR Call Center, is being organized for HR departments at member organizations to leverage if they have any questions regarding diversity issues.

Merryl Tengesdal posing for a photo

To learn more about the DEI Learning Series, a WISE ambassador event will be held Dec. 7, and then in January 2022 an introductory meeting explaining the program will occur, followed by monthly educational events held throughout 2022.

The meeting also voted in three new members to the board of directors:

  • Sheila Dy Juanco, VP, technical services, Albertsons;
  • Lisa Eatherton, senior business manager, private brands, John B. Sanfilippo & Son;
  • Phyllis Johnson, senior director, brand development and own brands, Catalina.

The members replace board seats held by Nanc Cota of Albertsons, Laura Fezouati of C.H. Guenther & Son and Susan Hunsaker of Advantage Sales.

Lastly, a keynote Q&A was moderated by Jac Ross, vice president of our brands at Sprouts Farmers Market, speaking with Colonel Merryl Tengesdale, USAF (ret.), the first and only African American woman U-2 pilot of the U.S. Air Force's U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. To her credit, Tengesdale has more than 3,400 flight hours, including 330 combat hours in six different rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.

She shared advice on managing work-life balance and her experiences navigating her service in the military.