New CEO pivots from beer to butter at Foothills Creamery

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Going from marketing beer to butter might seem a big career jump, but Bill McKenzie, recently appointed CEO of Foothills Creamery, says there are many similarities.

Working for the alcoholic beverage industry began while at university when he got a job with Molson Brewery. He stayed with that company for 17 years before switching to Diageo, one of the largest producers of spirits and beer, managing its sales team across the Prairies.

Ed McNally, founder of Big Rock, came knocking and McKenzie joined the local craft beer leader in 2008, retiring as president in 2012.

Later that same year he joined Wild Rose Brewery as CEO, at a time when it was looking at ways to expand from its tap room at Currie Barracks.

It was a great success story, as within a year it had built a brewery in Foothills Industrial and the tap room had expanded with a special event room. The growth was noticed by larger companies, and Sleeman Breweries — based in Guelph, Ont., but owned by the Japanese makers of Sapporo beer — made an unsolicited bid for Wild Rose and the deal was completed when McKenzie handed over the keys in February 2020.


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Retirement was no easier the second time, and when he saw that Foothills Creamery was recruiting for a CEO he jumped at the chance to join another iconic and unique Calgary company.

Foothills Creamery is one of Western Canada’s premium producers of handcrafted dairy products. Owner of strong brands of butter and premium ice cream, it boasts loyal customers earned over 50 years in business in this city.

In 2018 the company was purchased by co-investors Western Investment and ATB Capital. The production facility on Bonnybrook Road S.E. is modern, with capacity to support future growth, and it has an experienced Calgary staff of 60 under the guidance of COO Cathy Sanders, who has been with Foothills in senior roles for 22 years — a key member of the stable leadership team.

Production and distribution from the Calgary plant amounts to more than 4.4-million kilograms of butter and 1.1-million kilograms of ice cream annually.

They are sold from Manitoba to Vancouver Island with the help of company-run depots in Edmonton and Kelowna, B.C., where another 20 employees are housed.

Today, Foothills Creamery boasts 10 butter labels including salted or unsalted, whipped and garlic, all barrel-churned in small batches the same way they were in 1969. Available in grocery stores, the company also does a brisk business supplying product for co-packaging and private label agreements. Since starting to manufacture ice cream in 1986, it now offers 80 different flavours of ice cream, sherbet and soft serve sold in shops across Western Canada or in the freezer section of neighbourhood groceries.


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McKenzie says there is not such a big difference in marketing butter or beer. Breweries must deliver a quality product, and then need the support of local bars and liquor stores to help get people to try a brand and build customer support. They also need well-designed and effective point of sale materials.

His big plus is that Foothills Creamery is already a recognizable brand and is welcomed by the shops that sell its products.

Now, with warmer weather around the corner and hopefully some tourist attractions opening before long, McKenzie is looking forward to directing the company post-pandemic and introducing new strategies that will take it to a new level in all of its markets.


Calgary agency Daughter Creative has been awarded the Calgary Co-op account after a competitive review process. The win signals continued momentum for the fast-growing design and advertising studio that proudly works with other Calgary majors, including Bow Valley College and Calgary Health Foundation. Added business has resulted in new hires — co-creative director Keli Pollock; art director Justin Tabakian, formerly of Leo Burnett; senior copywriter Jordan Finlayson, formerly of Target; and senior production artist Tina Song, who was previously with WAX Partnership. Daughter is well-known to local craft beverage lovers for its branding and packaging work, and recently picked up Burwood Distillery and also launched a new identity and packaging line for Cinnzeo, which is planned to roll out globally.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at


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