Michigan native has nearly 35 years of experience in consumer and food products industry
John Whaley has been named Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Michigan Sugar Company, a grower-owned cooperative headquartered in Bay City with sugarbeet slicing facilities in Bay City, Caro, Croswell, and Sebewaing. Among its products, the company packages and sells White Granulated, Golden Light Brown, Dark Brown, and Confectioners Powdered sugars under the brand name Pioneer Sugar.
John joined Michigan Sugar in 2019 as Director of Sales & Marketing and has nearly 35 years of experience in the consumer and food products industry, including roles with companies like Sara Lee Corp., The Schwan Food Company, and Vienna Beef Inc.
“John is a consummate professional,” said Michigan Sugar Company President and CEO Neil Juhnke. “His diverse background in sales and marketing with Fortune 500 food companies provides John with the perfect skillset to drive Michigan Sugar forward.”
During John’s tenure here, he has quickly established himself as a true professional, gaining the respect of our board, his department, and his peers,” added Jim Ruhlman, Michigan Sugar Company’s Executive Vice President. “His pleasant demeanor and approach, coupled with his marketing acumen, give him the credibility and respect to lead our sales and marketing team to a successful future. He understands the global and domestic sugar market, is established in the consumer goods arena, and is a perfect fit for our culture here at Michigan Sugar Company.”
A native of Kalamazoo, John grew up in Bay City and graduated from Bangor Township John Glenn High School in 1984. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Michigan State University in 1988.
He began his career in 1989 working for Boyle-Midway Household Products, a consumer products company based in New York City with well-known brands like Pam cooking spray, French’s mustard, and Eazy-Off oven cleaner, among others. The company eventually became Reckitt & Colman and later Reckitt Benckiser Group. Through 1994, John worked for the company in Grand Rapids; Dayton, Ohio; Milwaukee; Cincinnati; and Chicago.
In 1995, John went to work as an Account Manager for Monsanto, overseeing the company’s NutraSweet Division and calling on Walmart and Sam’s Club. In 1997, he became the Business Manager for Schering-Plough Corp., known for products like Coppertone, Afrin, and Dr. Scholl’s, calling on Target and American Stores (now Safeway).
John went to work in 1999 as a Customer Marketing Manager for Alberto-Culver, an international corporation specializing in hair and skin beauty care products under such brands as Alberto VO5, St. Ives, and TRESemmé. He remained there until 2006 when he joined the team at Sara Lee Corp. working as Director of Sales Strategy. During his time there he was involved in the launch of the Jimmy Dean line of frozen breakfasts.
In 2011, John joined The Schwan Food Company, where he managed the company’s frozen food business – with brands like Tony’s, Freschetta, and Red Baron pizza – in Central U.S. markets. His final stop before joining Michigan Sugar Company was with Vienna Beef Inc., where he worked as Director of Retail Sales & Marketing from 2014 to 2019.
“Michigan Sugar Company is blessed to have a diverse mix of outstanding customer partners that we collaborate with daily,” said Whaley. “Working with our experienced, high-performing sales team is a privilege I am excited to continue in my new role.”
John and his wife Kelli live in Bay City and have two sons – Mike, who lives in Bay City and works as a nonprofit financial consultant, and Brett, who lives in the Chicago area and works as a CPA for Ernst & Young. In his free time, John enjoys skiing, biking, boating, and cheering on his beloved MSU Spartans.