Jennifer Reiner, Senior Director, Omnichannel Marketing & E-Commerce at Del Monte Foods, is one of three 2020 selections for the Path to Purchase Institute Hall of Fame. We interviewed her in February at Del Monte’s offices in Walnut Creek, California.
Title: Senior Director – Omnichannel Marketing & E-Commerce
Company: Del Monte Foods
Career path: Del Monte Foods, Senior Director Omnichannel Marketing & E-Commerce (2015-present), Senior Director Shopper Marketing & Category Management (2015), Director of Shopper Marketing (2013-2015); Coca-Cola Refreshments, AVP/Group Director Shopper Marketing (2011-2012); The Clorox Company, Multicultural Team Leader/Senior Marketing Manager (2008-2011), Shopper Marketing Manager (2004-2008); Saatchi & Saatchi X (ThompsonMurray), Director, Account Planning of Shopper Marketing (2001-2004); The Pillsbury Company, Marketing Manager (1999-2001); Pennant Food, Marketing Manager (1998-1999); New Zealand Apple & Pear (ENZA) & Zespri Kiwi Marketing Boards, Regional Brand Manager (1996-1998); White Hen Pantry, Merchandising Specialist (1993-1995).
Industry activities: Member of the Path to Purchase Institute’s League of Leaders; executive member of the Produce for Better Health Foundation; member of the Canned Food Alliance; final-round jurist for Shopper Marketing Effie Awards; regular speaker and contributor at Path to Purchase Expo and other industry events.
Education: Bowling Green State University, Bachelor’s, Marketing & International Business; DePaul University, MBA, Marketing.
In recognition of her experience in shopper marketing and her successful efforts building the e-commerce practice at Del Monte Foods, as well as for the ongoing commitment she’s made to helping advance industry knowledge through public thought leadership and behind-the-scenes support of industry groups and events, Jennifer Reiner has been selected as a 2020 inductee into the Path to Purchase Institute’s Hall of Fame.
Since joining Del Monte in summer 2013, Reiner has taken on roles of increasing responsibility. After starting as director of shopper marketing, she added category management to her duties in 2015 for a short time period before relinquishing those duties to add integrated marketing and then, in 2017, spearheading the company’s entry into e-commerce.
Now, as director of omnichannel marketing & e-commerce, she leads integrated marketing communications, agency management, digital, consumer promotions, media, PR and shopper marketing, along with the Del Monte Kitchens & Creative Services teams.
In February, Bill Schober and Peter Breen interviewed Reiner at Del Monte’s offices in Walnut Creek, California.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Reiner: I grew up in Massillon, Ohio, which is somewhat rural. My father worked in construction and my mother worked for the Norfolk Southern railroad. A lot of my family worked in the railroad, actually. My parents divorced when I was in eighth grade, so my mom raised the three of us. As the eldest, I often pitched in quite a bit around the house, although somewhat begrudgingly at the time.
I was very much a tomboy, out playing sports and very active in my community as a 4-H’er. I was also into the horse scene, riding Western and competing in horse shows. I competed in our county fair each year and was the County Fair Queen. One of my teachers encouraged me to get more involved at school, so I was on student council, in the National Honor Society, played piano for the choir, played volleyball …
Seeing how busy you were, I hesitate to ask: Any jobs during high school?
Reiner: Like a lot of people, I started babysitting pretty young, and then got my first job when I was 16 as a hostess at a restaurant, sporting a fabulous red polyester blazer. Like most kids, I had a number of jobs all through school: I worked at a medical clinic as a receptionist; I did data entry for a credit card company; and one summer during college break, I managed the scale house at a landfill, where the trucks would come in loaded with waste and we’d weigh them and do all the paperwork. They actually wanted to hire me after college, but I was like, “Thanks but no, I’m not looking for a career in waste management.”
Where did you attend college?
Reiner: Ohio has a lot of great state colleges, but Bowling Green just was a good fit for me. I knew I wanted to go into business, and Bowling Green had a very good program. I majored in marketing because I liked learning about consumer psychology and understanding behavior. As I got more into the coursework of classical brand management and advertising, it really cemented the fact that I wanted to get into marketing.
Bowling Green wasn’t a big recruiting campus for big CPG companies, however. I didn’t have a lot of direction in terms of internships or the possibilities of grad school for the brand management track. I just thought I’d better go out, get a job and get some work experience. So, I moved to Chicago.
You moved without a job?
Reiner: Right. But I got one relatively quickly, with QLM Associates, a sales promotion agency from the Northeast that had a satellite office for Kraft. I started as an administrative assistant, manning a keyboard, but quickly was promoted to assistant account executive. That meant I went to photo shoots at the Kraft studios, which, when you’re 21 years old, is exciting. We produced a lot of the promotional materials for the organization; things like sales sheets for Kraft Ranch dressing.
Your next job was with White Hen Pantry, which had a pretty big footprint in Chicagoland back in the day. What was that like?
Reiner: White Hen Pantry was a fabulous job. I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into, but I was under the wing of the senior merchandising directors and had a lot of responsibilities [despite] being as young as I was. I ended up doing the franchisee training, which was crazy – “I’m here to show you how to run your store” – as someone who’d never worked in retail.
I managed and worked in a number of categories including bakery, which for White Hen was very big, plus coffee, and with all the [direct-store delivery] beverage buyers like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. White Hen had a newsletter for their hundreds of franchisees that I had to come up with content for: “OK, your doughnuts are on sale this week, and the recommended promo is two for $1 and your coffee is 25 cents.” I did all kinds of stuff.
I’d sit in on meetings where Pepsi and Coke would bring new items like new age beverages, sparkling waters and different teas, and I’d give them my point of view. One day, White Hen’s bagel supplier suddenly went out of business, so I was sent out all over Chicago to find a new bagel supplier. It was fun learning on the job.
Why did you move on?
Reiner: It was great to get a view of the other side, but I realized I didn’t want to be in retail. So, while I was working full time, I did the part-time MBA program at DePaul, taking two or three courses every quarter and completing it in two years.
The New Zealand Marketing Board recruited on campus and I went to work for them. They’d positioned it as a brand role, and in my naivety, I assumed it would be traditional brand management, but it turned out to be a glorified regional marketing manager position working with produce managers.
The exciting part was the launch of a new brand of Kiwi fruit – Zespri – so there was a little bit of branding. But mostly I was doing an early form of account-specific shopper marketing, building programs with retailers – except that we didn’t have access to any Nielsen or ROI data to really understand the business. It was all about shipment data and just trying to drive consumption. There was one big highlight: a trip to New Zealand to go out into the fields and work with the growers.