WASHINGTON — The United Fresh Produce Association is seeking nominations for its third annual Produce Managers Awards Program, which honors store-level produce managers and produce directors for their work to increase consumption of fresh produce.
As in past years, UFPA will select from the nominees 20 store-level managers who will be given an expenses-paid trip to the United Fresh Marketplace show in Chicago in May. The United show runs simultaneously with the Food Marketing Institute's show, the Fancy Food show, All Things Organic and the U.S. Export Showcase. At Fresh Marketplace, the winners and their corporate produce directors will be honored at a formal recognition ceremony.
After United kicked off this year's program with a telephone news conference earlier this month, SN talked to some of last year's winners. They said the experience of participating in United's program, and especially, attending the show in Chicago, broadened their perspectives of the whole industry and strengthened their commitments to customers.
“I came back from Chicago with renewed spirit, renewed appreciation for the industry,” said Dee Mabry, produce manager, at a Shreveport, La., unit of 155-store Brookshire Grocery Co., Tyler, Texas. “Being able to meet face to face with so many of our vendors was very valuable. It was good to be able to put a face to a voice and also to realize [vendors] want to hear from us.
“They do want to know what we think, what we want from them,” added Mabry, who was one of four grand-prize winners.
Another 2006 grand-prize winner, Mark Koll, a produce manager at a Sioux Falls, Iowa-unit of Hy-Vee, which has more than 200 stores, said it was particularly interesting to him to hear how other store-level produce managers approach their jobs.
“We all have the same goal, but there are definite differences in how we all work,” Koll said.
“That was very interesting to me. The whole experience [of the program] was very positive, from the nomination to the show in Chicago.”
Both men praised their respective companies for giving them a lot of autonomy in carrying out their responsibilities in their particular market areas.
United's president, Tom Stenzel, commented last week on that autonomy: “As I meet with retail produce directors across the country, I find it incredible how much authority they invest in store level managers.
“These folks are the front-line sales team for the produce industry, and retailers tell me this program really helps them honor and encourage their associates to take produce sales and merchandising to the next level.”
The program is being sponsored by Ready Pac, Irwindale, Calif., for the third year in a row.