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Produce veteran named PMA Impact Award winner

The Produce Marketing Association has released the third and final Impact Award Winner and it is recognizing Al Romero, senior merchandising manager at 99 Cents Only stores, for his work bringing greater access to produce in his urban Los Angeles community.  The PMA Impact Award was first announced in 2019 at Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA. The award is meant to recognize individuals and organizations who have had a transformative effect on the produce and floral community, consumers, and the world.

Romero is the first individual winner of the PMA Impact Award and was nominated for his work bringing fresh produce to the Los Angeles community his 99 Cents Only store services.  Romero is a true industry veteran having joined in 1978; he began his career pushing grocery carts and stocking shelves and has advanced to become not only a senior merchandising manager at 99 Cents Only Stores, but also their first ever fresh manager.

“We know that two of the greatest barriers for fruit and vegetable consumption is preference and accessibility,” said Lauren M. Scott, chief strategy and membership officer at PMA. “Al Romero has tackled both of these barriers by helping to introduce produce to his stores.  Not only is he working with buyers to provide a variety of produce at a price point that serves his customers, his outstanding merchandising is making it a desirable and sought after option week after week.”

The 99 Cents Only Stores offer over 250 SKUs of fresh produce. In most cases, they’re providing produce to consumers within 72 hours from harvest, providing an incredible value to traditionally underserved communities.  In many of their stores, almost 20 percent of their produce is organic.

“Al was our first Fresh Manager in the field,” said Caitlyn Tierney, senior director of fresh at 99 Cents Only Stores. “He and I grew produce to what it is today. We had a supplier call us and tell us he needed to sell a shipment of strawberries. We bought the load, sent it to our stores and within an hour the whole load was sold out.  We said ‘clearly this is something our community is in dire need of.’”

Romero embodies the PMA Impact Award as a leader having a transformative effect on the produce and floral community, but he would also share that his work has had an undeniable impact on his community as well.

“What we created in the produce department is a healthier environment for our customers, our community and our associates,” said Romero.  “It was a team effort with our buyers. They brought in a great variety and my job was introducing it as an appealing option and getting it out there to the community. When I wake up every day, I’m excited to come to work. I think about what family are we going to make happy? What family are we going to help put food on the table?”

PMA congratulates all Impact Award Laureates, and will continue to celebrate and recognize their impact on the PMA website. A mini-documentary with more about Romero’s story can found here

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