Class of 2021
Thinking and working outside the box are earmarks of Barry Tyrone Phillips’ category management style throughout his 37-year retail career. Since 2014, Barry has been the Candy Category Manager at SpartanNash Co. He’s recognized throughout the industry for his positive attitude and his love of the confectionery category, along with his ability to foster strong partnerships with vendors.
Born on August 14, 1962, in Kosciusko, MS, to Etta and Nathaniel, Barry grew up with eight brothers and sisters. The family moved to Cleveland while Barry was still a young boy and he graduated from East High School in 1981 before attending Dyke College of Business.
While working in a local Super Valu supermarket in Cleveland, which Barry says inspired his love of retail, he met Bridget McClain whose grandmother shopped at the store. In 1988, they were married at Calvary Presbyterian Church, in Cleveland.
In late 1995, Barry joined then Kmart Corp. as a grocery merchandiser for both Kmart and Super Kmart stores. In 2001, he was promoted to assistant category manager for snacks where he honed his skills before being approached by his then boss, Chris Zulfer, who told him it was time for a new challenge. Barry took on the category manager role for both candy and snacks in 2004 and never looked back.
Two years later, in 2006, Barry was given more responsibility as he became the category manager of candy and seasonal gifts. He held that position until early 2014 when he moved to the household products category manager desk.
But Barry wouldn’t be out of candy for long, because after a brief six months in household products he accepted the role of category manager for candy at SpartanNash.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Barry has received multiple industry honors and has led many people to achieve success.
In 2007, Barry earned Sears Holdings’ Attitude Is Everything award and in 2011 he was recognized by the company for Outstanding Holiday Season Sales, achieving double digit growth and share gain. Mars Wrigley called out Barry’s accomplishments in 2012, awarding him the Outstanding Support & Partnership award in recognition of successes with new product launches.
In 2018, Barry received the Confectionery Leadership Award from NCA and Candy & Snack TODAY.
And while Barry’s success has been recognized he has always felt it was more important to pay it forward, actively mentoring colleagues and local youth. He has been part of apprentice programs throughout his career, mentoring newly hired associates, teaching them the ins and outs of being a category manager.
Barry has also been recognized by the Grand Rapids Urban League for working with and speaking to high school students, giving them guidance, and helping them set career goals. He has also been active in the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids since 2017.