By Kris Millgate
“I like numbers, and I like to solve problems,” says Neal Berube, Associated Foods president and CEO.
Berube graduated from Weber State University with a degree in accounting and then worked as a CPA for various firms. His numbers-oriented character led him to Associated Foods 26 years ago. It also led him to his youngest son.
“Our youngest son is adopted. If I had not gone to Associated Foods, we wouldn’t have found the little boy who needed to get into our family,” Berube says. “There are many pieces to the story, but I know that’s why I ended up at Associated.”
Berube’s youngest son Colton is now 24. He had a rare condition, Kawasaki disease, as a child, but that hasn’t stopped him from going to nursing school. Berube’s middle child, Justin, had a kidney transplant in his teens. He’s now an attorney at 32. And Ryan, Berube’s oldest son, is 35. He has muscular dystrophy and wasn’t expected to live past 20. Another numbers game Berube beat with a total sum of compassion.
“Dealing with our sons through medical issues and tribulations helped me develop compassion for other people and an understanding for things in life that don’t always go as planned,” he says. “Those personal experiences help me relate better to all levels of people at Associated Foods.
Berube started at Associated as controller. He became CEO on 11/11/11. More numbers he likes to remember. He still favors finance, but also budgets for spending half of his time in other departments. That includes working at the company’s distribution center where helping is sometimes a challenge.
“It’s the strangest thing because I put my pants on the same way everybody else does, but a title can sometimes be a barrier,” he says. “When I’m out on the distribution floor with young kids filling orders, they freeze up when I’m just trying to have a conversation with them.”
Berube doesn’t freeze up when it comes to food. He answers to 400 stores that are part owners in the company. He also serves as trustee for Intermountain Healthcare. In partnership with Intermountain, he’s launching Live Well lanes, specific rows in grocery stores that encourage healthier eating for healthier living.
“Instead of candy and gum that might not be as healthy, those lanes only have healthy foods,” Berube says. He promotes Live Well at work but also tries to live well at home. He gardens, golfs and attends an endless run of dance recitals for his granddaughters, all while crunching numbers in his own compassionate way.
“Outside of work, I’m just proud to have a great family that supports each other and cares deeply about other people,” he says.