LAS VEGAS — The United Fresh Produce Association will honor 25 outstanding produce managers here at its Chairman's Reception and Annual Awards Banquet the evening of Tuesday, May 6, at Bally's Hotel.
United Fresh President Tom Stenzel announced the winners of the 2008 Retail Produce Manager Award, chosen from 200 nominees, earlier this year.
“This year's winners are among the very top performers at store level,” Stenzel said. “These are the individuals on the front line of produce sales, and we're glad to say a small ‘thank you’ to these men and women on behalf of the entire produce industry.”
The 25 winners were selected from nominations submitted by retail chains, independent supermarkets and produce suppliers throughout the industry and across the country. Twenty supermarket chains, independents and commissaries, spanning 17 states, are represented.
The 2008 winners are Robert Cardwell, Raley's, Fairfield, Calif.; Gary Clay, Raley's, Santa Rosa, Calif.; Kevin Colligan, Brookshire Grocery Co., Lafayette, La.; Terry Cox, Foodtown Supermarket, Lambertville, Mich.; Eddie Duncan, Food Lion, Gate City, Va.; Todd Fenton, Safeway, Seaside, Ore.; Brian Gabb, Winn-Dixie Stores, Chalmette, La.; Jake Harding, Hy-Vee, Omaha, Neb.; Neil Hartley, Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.; Angela Hopson, K-VA-T Foods, Big Stone Gap, Va.; Amy Kirk, Safeway, University Place, Wash.; Mark Leung, Smith's Food & Drug Stores, Midvale, Utah; Harry Lewis, Luke AFB Commissary, Glendale, Ariz.; Paul Lopez, Vons, Paso Robles, Calif.; David Meier, Safeway, Auburn, Calif.; Jim Molloy, Hannaford Bros., Nashua, N.H.; John Monahan, Price Chopper Supermarkets/Golub Corp., Marlboro, Mass.; Ken Peche, BKT Sentry Foods, Waukesha, Wis.; Greg Reinhart, Hy-Vee, Marshall, Minn.; Nancy Riekena, Kroger Co., Peoria, Ill.; Julie Rodriguez, Smith's Food & Drug Stores, Bozeman, Mont.; Bernard Rogers, Jewel-Osco, DeKalb, Ill.; John Schwenk, Bristol Farms, Newport Beach, Calif.; Richard Thompson, Meijer, Okemos, Mich.; and Ismael Vela, Wal-Mart Stores, Edinburg, Texas.
The winners are selected based on their efforts to increase produce consumption through excellence in merchandising, special displays and promotions, community service, and a commitment to customer satisfaction.
One supermarket official, whose company had a winner last year as well as this year, told SN he sees this competition as a particularly important industry event.
“It's a great thing, what United Fresh is doing, to recognize individuals in this field,” said Jim Corby, vice president, produce merchandising, at Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.
“It is powerful when a produce manager is named a winner in this competition.”
In addition to implementing creative merchandising and educational efforts, winners often find unique ways of drawing people into their departments. One produce manager, a Grand Prize winner last year, had recipe centers in the department that grouped together products used in particular recipes. Several of this year's winners have shown that they have well-honed skills they have employed to get children interested in eating more fruits and vegetables.
For example, winner Jim Molloy, Hannaford Bros., was nominated because “he has a unique ability to communicate his passion for produce to schoolchildren,” partly by introducing them to such exotics as dragon fruit and cactus pears.
Another winner this year, Greg Reinhart at Hy-Vee, who regularly speaks to classes at the local high school about the importance of including fresh produce when planning meals, is a big believer in educating the younger generation.
“Young people are the backbone of the produce world,” he said. “They're our future customers, and educating them about produce items and how to prepare them is extremely important.”
All 2008 Produce Manager Award winners and their corporate produce directors will be honored during the awards banquet, and four Grand Prize recipients will be announced. They will receive an additional $1,000 cash prize.
Conference attendees will also have the opportunity to hear merchandising and promotional tips from several of the winners during “Produce Sales Drivers in Store: Secrets of the Retail Award Winners,” a workshop scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on May 6 at Bally's Hotel.
The 2008 United Fresh Retail Produce Manager Awards Program is sponsored by Ready Pac Foods.
“Ready Pac is pleased to once again sponsor the United Fresh Retail Produce Manager Awards Program. We believe it's important to honor retail produce managers for their hard work and dedication and to recognize their important role in promoting fresh fruits and vegetables with consumers,” said Dennis Gertmenian, chairman and chief executive officer, Ready Pac Foods.
This is the first year that 25 winners have been chosen from the nominees.
“We received some really outstanding nominations this year, and thanks to Ready Pac's sponsorship, we've increased the number of winners from 20 to 25,” said Amy Philpott, United Fresh's vice president of marketing and industry relations. “We look forward to honoring these managers and their corporate directors in Las Vegas.”
Applications for the 2009 Retail Produce Manager Awards Program will be available online this fall at www.unitedfresh.org.
“It isn't too early for all retail members and produce marketers to begin looking now at potential nominees for the 2009 Awards Program, and make sure to note outstanding performances throughout the year,” said Philpott.