Ashley Decker, Digital Advertising Supervisor at Wealthy Merchandise, talks about how Niagara College’s Meals Advertising Middle of Excellence constructed her profession at Wealthy Merchandise.



Ashley Decker had simply transferred from Baylor College in Texas to Niagara College in Lewiston to be nearer to house in 2018 when she discovered her subsequent profession.

He was already curious about advertising and marketing and knew he wished to stay and make money working from home in Buffalo. He discovered that Niagara had distinctive partnerships with meals trade giants Wealthy Merchandise, Wegmans and others to construct expertise to feed a big phase of the labor market that was hungry for development.

Western New York is house to just about 1,200 corporations concerned in meals manufacturing, distribution, retailing and/or warehousing, making it one of many prime 5 trade markets nationally, in keeping with Niagara’s Meals Advertising Middle of Excellence.

Certainly one of Decker’s professors, Peggy Choong, urged that if she wished to remain at Western New York, she might differentiate herself from different advertising and marketing majors by specializing in the meals trade via Niagara’s specialty program.

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“He launched me to completely different lessons and trade experiences, and inside 10 minutes he offered me on it,” Decker stated. “That day I modified my occupation.”

By means of the Niagara Middle of Excellence, Decker turned the primary recipient of the Worldwide Foodservice Manufacturing Affiliation Scholarship and interned at Wealthy Merchandise. After graduating in 2019, she was employed by Wealthy as a Digital Advertising Coordinator and has since been promoted twice, most just lately to Digital Built-in and Efficiency Advertising Supervisor.







Ashley Decker Food Marketing

Ashley Decker, digital advertising and marketing supervisor, inbound and efficiency advertising and marketing for Wealthy Merchandise, poses for a product picture shoot within the advertising and marketing kitchen at Wealthy’s headquarters, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Decker is a graduate of Niagara College’s Middle for Meals Advertising. of Excellence partnering with Wealthy to develop the workforce. (Derek Gee/Buffalo Information)


Derek Gee/Buffalo Information


Decker’s expertise exemplifies precisely what Niagara’s Meals Advertising Middle of Excellence has labored to realize: constructing robust partnerships with rising native industries that present a direct pipeline of jobs that profit college students, the area and the businesses concerned.

Founding associate Wealthy Merchandise has employed about 40 Niagara graduates via this system and helps develop their careers to retain them. Whereas at Wealthy, Decker went on to earn an MBA in meals advertising and marketing at Niagara, additional accelerating her profession.







Ashley Decker Food Marketing

Ashley Decker, digital advertising and marketing supervisor, inbound and efficiency advertising and marketing for Wealthy Merchandise, poses for a product picture shoot within the advertising and marketing kitchen at Wealthy’s headquarters, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Decker is a graduate of Niagara College’s Middle for Meals Advertising. of Excellence partnering with Wealthy to develop the workforce. (Derek Gee/Buffalo Information)


Derek Gee/Buffalo Information


With school enrollment in decline, partnering with main employers to coach their future staff has turn into a serious focus of upper schooling. Niagara’s meals trade program has been forward of the sport, planting the primary seeds 10 years in the past and evolving this system to handle altering trade tendencies and workforce wants.

It started within the brainchild of Invoice Chiodo, a meals retail knowledgeable at Affinity Group Retail, in 2013. A buddy recruited Chiodo to serve on the advisory board of St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, thought of one of many prime meals advertising and marketing faculties on this planet. Chiodo discovered it “humorous” that his hometown of Buffalo had a a lot bigger meals market, “however no funnel for individuals to affix the trade.”

“Wealthy, one of many largest meals corporations on this planet, is positioned right here,” Chiodo stated. “Wegmans is without doubt one of the finest employers within the nation. Tops [Markets] it is prime 20 right here, and it will be prime 10 anyplace else. Nevertheless, we did not have a meals trade pipeline right here. It drove me loopy.’

Chiodo started speaking to universities about making a program, and Niagara was “ecstatic in regards to the thought,” he stated. Meals producing corporations had been additionally excited. Since then, the middle has grown from a number of massive companions to “a who’s who of leaders within the meals trade,” he stated.

Mark Frascatore, dean of Niagara’s Holzschuh Faculty of Enterprise Administration, says the middle of excellence is concerned with “each main meals firm in Western New York, with each main retailer represented on our advisory board.”

It has additionally attracted consideration from corporations exterior the area, together with Pepsico, Huge Rooster and Clorox Co. The most important occasion of the yr, the Meals Advertising Summit, held every fall, attracts about 250 meals trade representatives, “about half from the market and half from exterior of Western New York,” Chiodo stated.

“In recent times, this system has expanded to incorporate different disciplines and sources,” stated Jaime McKeon, Wealthy Merchandise’ senior vice chairman of demand era and a founding member of the Meals Advertising Middle of Excellence’s advisory board.

McKeon stated the middle’s first purpose was to provide meals advertising and marketing professionals like Dexter, however they realized there was room to develop every kind of expertise, from accounting to communications, human sources, knowledge analytics, careers in meals.

The Middle of Excellence now has a Meals Business Management Program, open to college students of all majors, that gives a myriad of experiences, from nationwide conferences, commerce reveals and competitions to firm excursions that take college students to see how a sausage, or pizza, is made. drink, pasta or baked items, for that matter.

“Simply the sphere journeys are superb,” Dexter stated. “You possibly can have a category at Complete Meals someday and be at Wealthy Merchandise making pizza the following. So it is a altering atmosphere from the classroom the place you be taught one thing new and really hands-on.”

McKeon stated shut relationships with trade have stored this system related because it has tailored to large modifications.







Jenna Barrone Food Marketing

Jenna Baron, assistant digital advertising and marketing supervisor for Wealthy Merchandise, poses for a product picture shoot within the advertising and marketing kitchen at Wealthy’s headquarters, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. He’s a graduate of Niagara College’s Meals Advertising Middle of Excellence, a partnership with Rich to develop the workforce.


Derek Gee/Buffalo Information


Since its inception, advertising and marketing, procurement and most business-to-business interactions have gone digital. E-commerce, branding and client analytics have been reworked by new applied sciences. Sustainability has turn into extra of a necessity than a priority. Diet and “meals as medication” have turn into essential well being points.

Era Z has performed an enormous function in embracing vegetarian, vegan and natural meals varieties, demanding extra “plant-forward” choices in addition to sustainable packaging and inexperienced practices from the businesses they assist. They use social media as inventive means to share meals content material, which creates pleasure for innovation and new merchandise.

“We may help college students see that their curiosity in meals presents alternatives from a profession standpoint,” McKeon stated. “The expertise wars have solely elevated because the pandemic, and we’re all the time on the lookout for inventive methods to construct that pipeline to gasoline our development ambitions, construct connections throughout trade and create wins for college kids by making ready them for careers.”

The pandemic additionally introduced the phrase “provide chain” into the vernacular, bringing visibility to a beforehand missed sector of the trade. In response, Niagara added a provide chain heart of excellence to show expertise comparable to logistics, transportation administration and world commerce.

“I do not need to thank the pandemic for something, however 5 years in the past no person knew what provide chain was,” Frascatore stated. “Now we’ve got dad and mom on the open home who’re saying: “So what is that this new provide chain?”

One other epidemic pattern that is caught round: snacking.

“Snacks exploded with individuals working from house,” McCone stated, “I feel as a result of we had been all trapped in these little rooms, we needed to go down and have a snack as a result of we did not have time to eat a full meal. And shoppers, particularly Gen Z, nonetheless need to indulge. They need to deal with themselves, however in smaller, more healthy doses.”

Chiodo stated the inventive aspect of meals drives extra entrepreneurship regionally than some other trade. The Middle of Excellence has simply added a mentorship program to pair college students with members of its advisory board who may help them pursue their objectives and concepts.

“It is simply out of this world to have individuals on the prime of the meals trade function mentors for our college students,” Chiodo stated. “We’re actually proud to have created this program, and it is one thing the complete trade right here needs to be pleased with.”

Decker stated he’s so pleased with the middle of excellence that he talks about it to everybody he meets. One one that listened was his youthful sister, who adopted him to Niagara to pursue the identical profession.



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