People to Watch 2019: Hilary Carter
Title: Manager, Shopper Innovation & Experience, Nestle Coffee Partners
Education: Queen’s University (bachelor of commerce)
Hilary Carter likes to say she’s come full circle – at least to this point in her young career. She started with a confectionery marketing internship at Nestle Canada in her native Toronto while still in school at Queen’s University. She then joined the marketing team full time after graduation in 2012 in a role focused on product development – exposing her to sales, research and development, supply chain and finance.
Two years later, she moved over to Starbucks Canada and became Starbucks' first person responsible for shopper marketing in that market, giving her an opportunity to create the shopper marketing roadmap for Canada.
In 2017, she relocated to Starbucks USA and joined the shopper innovation & experience team. After the announcement in 2018 that Nestle would take over Starbucks’ products (outside of the company’s coffee shops), she learned that her department would be joining Nestle. “It’s been a positive experience to reintegrate into the company where I began my career,” she says.
As manager, shopper innovation & experience, Carter collaborates with retailers to reinvent the shopping experience for coffee. “It takes a strong partnership with retailers and a whole team of people to pull off this work,” she says. As a project manager, she works with a cross-functional team to execute each initiative, and all of the team’s solutions are designed with shopper insights and design principles in mind. “We’re an authority in coffee and are positioned to bring optimization and differentiation to the shopping experience, which ultimately delivers growth for the category,” she says.
Carter learned early on that this is a fast-paced industry and organizational structures are often evolving. Having reported to seven people over the past seven years, she says she’s learned something new from each of them. “I have a lot of interest in cross-functional stretch assignments, and my managers have been instrumental in helping me navigate the organization and find these opportunities.” During these assignments, she’s had increased visibility to senior leaders, some of whom have continued to be mentors after the assignment. “Relationships with senior mentors have helped me with longer-term career coaching and have become great sounding boards for ideas and aspirations,” she says.
The stretch assignments span two to six months, so each time Carter has needed to quickly ramp up in order to make an impact. “One of my temporary assignments involved a lateral move from shopper marketing to our sales planning team. On completion, I had a new perspective to bring to my shopper marketing role,” she notes.
During another, she had the opportunity to take on more leadership with a retailer. After previously partnering with a team to test a new coffee aisle solution in select stores, the retailer was seeing great results for the category and was ready to expand the solution to more of its stores, she recalls. “With a cross-functional team, I led the expansion throughout the chain and, in a short period of time, we had implemented the new coffee aisle solution into more than 50 of its stores.”
Carter is poised to face the challenges she sees in the industry head on. She knows that a consistent brand experience is critical so messages can resonate when they’re able to breakthrough all the noise. “Starbucks coffee shops provide great coffee experiences and my team strives to bring elements of that brand experience to our retailers’ coffee categories,” she says.
For her part, Carter hopes to continue building general management expertise. Marketing and sales functions have been her focus to this point, but looking forward, she would like to broaden her exposure to new functions and continue looking for unique, entrepreneurial assignments or projects. “I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic people and teams in the U.S. and Canada, and have learned a lot from the transition,” she says. “Each country has unique dynamics and challenges.”