United Honors Produce Managers

What: United Fresh Produce Association 2007 Retail Produce Manager Awards When: Sunday, May 6, 6:30-10:30 p.m. Where: Fresh Marketplace Reception and Retail Awards Banquet, Hyatt Regency Chicago CHICAGO United Fresh Produce Association will honor and recognize 20 winners of its 2007 Retail Produce Manager Award during the upcoming United Fresh Marketplace Opening Reception and Retail Awards Banquet

What: United Fresh Produce Association 2007 Retail Produce Manager Awards

When: Sunday, May 6, 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Where: Fresh Marketplace Reception and Retail Awards Banquet, Hyatt Regency Chicago

CHICAGO — United Fresh Produce Association will honor and recognize 20 winners of its 2007 Retail Produce Manager Award during the upcoming United Fresh Marketplace Opening Reception and Retail Awards Banquet here on May 6.

The awards are still relatively new to the industry, but awareness has been growing quickly. Frank Padilla, assistant vice president, GMM fresh foods at Costco Wholesale, Kirkland, Wash., and chairman of the Retail Produce Manager Awards Review Committee, described the awards as a great way to acknowledge the innovation and creativity of produce department managers during the industry's annual trade show.

“For the most part, we were able to get [a broad sampling] of what people do in terms of promoting and doing seasonal promotions and putting products out,” said Padilla.

Winners were recognized for a wide variety of promotions, “from tie-ins and cross-merchandising during certain times of the year, all the way to truckload-type of displays and promotions in the front of stores,” said Padilla. “It's pretty varied.”

This year marks the third year of these awards for United, and a couple of differences can be seen since the awards' inception in 2004.

More small chains and independent operators submitted nominations than in previous years, according to Amy Philpott, vice president of marketing and industry relations for United Fresh. The number of independents and smaller supermarket chains — defined as chains of three to 10 stores — jumped from zero in the first year of the awards to six this year.

“This year, we knew we wanted to reach out to smaller supermarkets, so we did quite a few direct mail campaigns that were specifically targeted toward [these retailers],” said Philpott.

The field also became much more competitive. Approximately 200 nominations were received by United — a record number, and a 16% increase over last year, Philpott said. The number of chains that nominated produce managers went up about 40% over last year.

“It started out fairly small, but it's gained a lot of momentum and a huge amount of popularity,” said Padilla of the awards.

Suppliers have also decided to participate in nominating their clients this year.

“We have for the past couple of years been really pushing our supplier members to nominate people as well, and to use it as a way to recognize their customers,” said Philpott.

“We've had one or two associations that have nominated people, and last year we had one supplier, but this year we actually had four different suppliers that nominated their customers, so that was exciting to see as well. We've been really trying to get the message out to our supplier members to use the program.”

The 20 winners were chosen for their outstanding efforts to increase produce consumption through everyday excellence in merchandising, special displays and promotions, community service, and commitment to total customer satisfaction. All winners — and their corporate produce directors — receive complimentary registration, travel and hotel accommodations to the upcoming convention. Of the 20 winners, four grand prize winners will be chosen and announced at the show and will receive a $1,000 cash prize each.

“The committee reviews the nominations and ranks them in four different categories on a 10-point scale, and staff simply adds up all those numbers. The ones that have the top four scores are the ones that are the grand prize winners,” Philpott explained.

The 20 winners include: John Arrellano, Raley's, San Pablo, Calif.; Ray Bowman, Hy-Vee, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Karen Cappuccilli, Winn-Dixie Stores, Port Charlotte, Fla.; Edward Fairbrother, Price Chopper, Syracuse, N.Y.; Tim Fearing, Niemann's Foods, Sterling, Ill.; James Fornelli, Jewel Osco, Highland Park, Ill.; Jose Guadarrama, Food4Less, Riverside, Calif.; Jeffery Ingram, Brookshire Grocery Co., Tyler, Texas; Carol Johnson, Raley's, Loomis, Calif.; Kevin Kinsley, Hy-Vee, Rochester, Minn.; Ken Korson, Meijer, Traverse City, Mich.; Cay McConnell, K-VA-T Foods, Blountville, Tenn.; Sandy McMichael, Market Place, Columbia, Ill.; Jim Miner, Bashas', Sedona, Ariz.; Jorge Muñoz, Safeway, Morgan Hill, Calif.; LeRoy Reesman, Albrecht's Sentry Foods, Delafield, Wis.; Shane Scarbrough, Brookshire Grocery Co., Jackson, Miss.; Thomas Sciarrino, Price Chopper, Dunmore, Pa.; Shari Spence, King Soopers, Highland Ranch, Colo.; and Michelle Williams, Food Lion, Charleston, S.C.

Philpott and Padilla both described the awards as a great opportunity for the industry to thank the people who are out there on the front lines of the produce industry, working directly with shoppers.

“I think [the awards] are a great thing,” said Padilla. “It really connects the people that are on the front line to the industry — not only the people that are buying the product, but the people that are selling it as well.”