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WAFC’s Christianson Has Devoted Her Career To Mentoring, Education

Carole Christianson
Carole Christianson

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 10:08 am

Carole Christianson started her career at age 18 with a family-owned bottling company, National Drinks in Gardena, California.

Thus began a 40-plus-year career in the grocery industry that has led to many significant accomplishments and awards. From National Drinks, to Dr Pepper, to Coca-Cola Enterprises, to the establishment of her own company, Christianson West, in 2003, Christianson held a variety of leadership positions, including VP of retail development and national sales director.

Today, she is COO of the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC), responsible for all aspects of the organization’s day-to-day operations. Established in 1921, the WAFC is a nonprofit organization comprising retailers and wholesalers in 14 western states. It is focused on providing educational opportunities for food industry associates and the Food Industry Management Program at the University of Southern California, which has been available to qualified industry participants for more than 54 years.WGA-color-vector

Mentoring and education are a key part of the mission at WAFC. Christianson credits her husband, Paul, as her strongest mentor, coach and advisor. She also gives credit to her WAFC Executive Committee.

“I have a great group of senior-level retail and wholesale executives who support, advise and advocate on behalf of the WAFC’s mission of ‘Advancing the Food Industry through Education and Leadership’ and me personally. It’s a unique group that volunteers their time and energy to provide their associates with advanced education.”

Ray Snyder of Dr Pepper also challenged, supported and mentored Christianson, and she is thankful she had the opportunity to thank him before he passed away.

One important issue that is directly affecting the retail grocery industry for Christianson is that the accelerated pace of change demands that the industry must be better and faster in everything it does.

“Technology, social media and other forms of communication necessitate that we never stop pursuing education for ourselves and those within our companies,” Christianson says, which ties directly back to the vision of WAFC.

When asked, as a woman pioneer in the food industry, what the most notable change has been over the years, Christianson says it is “that I am no longer the only woman in the room. It is very gratifying to see women emerging to leadership roles in both the retail and supplier side of our business. Well-deserved and long overdue.”

Christianson’s list of awards is long and includes:

• 1992: First woman to be honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Food and Beverage Industries Division with the prestigious Humanitarian of the Year Award;

• 1997: Elected “Headlite” (president) of the Illuminators, becoming the first woman to hold that position; and

• 1999: Inducted into the Southern California Grocery Sales Association Hall of Fame.

Christianson also is co-founder of Kids 4 Hope, which benefits pediatric cancer research at City of Hope, a leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

Interested in learning more about women’s leadership and diversity in the retail grocery industry? Head to Women Grocers of America’s webinar page and check out past webinar recordings: nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/.

*Editor’s note: This column also appears in the November 2015 print edition of The Shelby Report of the West.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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