Thought leader in food marketing takes reins of Western’s renowned program

Contact: Stacey Anderson

Dr. Russell J. Zwanka

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Russell J. Zwanka, associate professor of marketing at Western Michigan University, has been named director of the food and consumer package goods marketing program in the Haworth College of Business, the premier program of its kind in the country.

Appointed to the faculty in August 2020, Zwanka has spent the past year and a half shaping the program in significant ways. He created the first university-based Professional Category Management Certification program in the world, and he helped establish WMU’s Food Industry Research and Education Center as the place for thought leadership and food industry applied research insights. Zwanka also assisted with the relaunch of in-person industry engagement between WMU students and food industry professionals.

Zwanka officially took over the role of program director following the retirement of Dr. Frank Gambino in December 2021.  He will lead both the academic major, which has near excellent placement of its students, and the program’s industry conference, which drew upwards of 1,000 participants last year for the first virtual offering in the conference’s history.

"While Dr. Zwanka has only been here a short time, his impact has already been felt in every corner of the Haworth College of Business,” says Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, chair of the Department of Marketing. “As a truly gifted teacher and student mentor, organized program administrator and productive researcher, the sheer output and quality of his work is amazing. Add to that his can-do attitude and service to the department, and it is easy to see why we are so proud that he chose to make WMU his professional home."

Having spent a career in the food industry before teaching, Zwanka conceptualized and formed the food marketing concentration at Siena College, as well as the food marketing track at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He teaches category management, retail merchandising and marketing research; and has previously taught personal selling, marketing strategy, marketing principles, sales management and advanced concepts in food marketing.

Serving as the chair of the Food Industry University Coalition and as a member of the National Grocers Association Foundation, Zwanka works with other universities teaching food marketing to help educate the future leaders in the industry and shares practical food industry research with retailers and consumer goods companies.

Zwanka's 24 books are available in more than 40 countries across the globe and cover topics such as category management, food nutrition, walking a food store, public speaking, CBD and THC.

Additionally, he has led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement and customer engagement areas for multiple food retail companies domestically and internationally, including serving as executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at The North West Company, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing at Price Chopper and vice president of merchandising at Bozzuto’s Inc.

“This is an exciting time for WMU’s food marketing program as we have the absolute best faculty team in the country, with wide-ranging experience and talent,” says Zwanka. “There is no other food marketing program that graduates the top-caliber students we do—fully certified in category management, comfortable linking data analytics with applied strategies and tactics, and professionally trained in public speaking and selling interaction. And the best road is still ahead of us. Building upon Dr. Frank Gambino’s legacy, we are firmly cementing our research center as the place for industry thought leadership, signing up more industry companies for our category management certification and developing a graduate certificate program.”

Contact Zwanka to become involved with the WMU food and consumer package goods marketing program.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.