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IFPA names produce manager award winners

For their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, community service and customer satisfaction, 15 produce managers have been recognized by the 2023 Retail Produce Managers Award Program from the International Fresh Produce Association.

“The produce industry’s front line — produce managers — make a difference every day for their companies and their communities. I’m thrilled to name 15 produce managers who stand out from the crowd,” said Joe Watson, IFPA vice president of retail, foodservice and wholesale membership.

“IFPA is committed to advancing member prosperity and a healthier world,” he said. “Awards that recognize the best of the best not only reward stellar performers, they also inspire others to up their game. We are especially thankful to the award sponsor, Dole, which is equally committed to recognizing excellence.”

These 15 winners represent the produce industry to the consumer and work to increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for their banners and their communities. Following each winner’s name is just one of the many reasons their peers nominated them for this prestigious award.  
 
Patrick O'Brien of Albertsons Cos., Denver
Creativity, coaching and training  
O'Brien creates displays that look great and simply shout to the customer Buy Me. To drive sales, he coaches and trains his people on these same standards and customer service.   
 
Brandon Hash of Brookshire Grocery Co., Willow Park, TX
Profits and minimizing shrink
Hash is producing double-digit increases, which are reflected in his profits. He is known for his excellent fresh item management skills that minimize waste and shrink in his department.
 
Laura J. Marquand of Haggen Northwest Fresh, Ferndale, WA
Relationships rule  
Marquand has an acute understanding of the power of relationships with her customers and suppliers as well. These relationships allow her to better feed her neighborhood and build sales.    
 
Jenn Lane of Harris Teeter, Cornelius, NC
Holiday merchandising
Over the last year Lane has had a sales increase of 11.58 percent over the previous year, additionally outpacing her budget by 13.44 percent. For Valentines Day 2023 she outpaced 42 stores within the southern region that do above her weekly average sales by volume.   
 
Greg Kimmel of Hy-Vee Inc., Davenport, IA
Shopper-stopping artistry
Kimmel wants customers to stop in their tracks and do a double take. Color is everything. As an artist, he blends colors and adds extra touches to create an unforgettable masterpiece within his produce department.
 
Skylar Leonard of K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc./dba Food City, Piney Flats, TN
Local love
Leonard supports local farmers by having a specific section in his department dedicated to locally grown produce, in addition to informative signage about the farmers and their farms. He uses social media, radio, and store announcements to promote farm fresh, direct store deliveries.  
 
Darron Hyatt of Lowes Foods, Southern Pines, NC
Displays – full, fresh, and clean
Hyatt and his team have been recognized by their guests as the premier for fresh fruits, vegetables, and floral within Southern Pines. Quality and freshness are his goals.   
 
Timothy F. Baker of Orcas Island Market, Eastsound, WA
Feed the pigs  
Baker and team keep hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste out of the landfill.  He and the store’s environmental team launched a program to provide food scraps to feed livestock — a huge hit for the local pig farmers (and the pigs)!

Gary Lasalle of Price Chopper/Market 32 Supermarket, New Hartford, NY
Starting kids off right
As a community leader, Lasalle offers school tours to teach kids about produce through a fun experience (including samples and games). Every kid takes home fruits and vegetables they chose themselves.
 
Olin Williams of Corner Market, Hattiesburg, MS
Trickle-down knowledge and training
Williams's produce knowledge has helped him advance quickly. He is teaching the next generation of produce managers how to be successful in produce. His trainees take the skills they learn from Williams to teach their own teams.
 
Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce Market, Portland, OR
Great Apple Taste Test
In the Great Apple Taste Test, Alsberg chose six out-of-the-ordinary varieties for a blind taste test with students. They scored the apples based on attributes Alsberg taught them about like taste, crunch, density, ability to display and others. Then teachers turned this fun activity into math and health teaching opportunities.   
 
Mark Bentley of Southeastern Grocers, St. Johns, FL
Delight is in the details
Bentley is well-known for his attention to detail and sharp produce merchandising abilities. Working at produce rebranding or remodeling activities, he implements the latest and greatest department layouts.
 
Mitch Harris of Strack & Van Til, Valparaiso, IN
The trusted source
Harris is always looking for the best tasting produce, either unique or everyday items. He has developed a following of customers who know and trust that “if Mitch says it's good, then it's probably great.”
 
Breanna Norris of The Giant Co., Doylestown, PA
Storytelling to drive sales
Norris is strategic and thoughtful. Her creativity elevates displays, particularly amplifying special events, holidays and promotions to tell the stories of our brand and supplier partners while driving sales.  
 
Christopher DeMarie of Tops Markets, Dunkirk, NY
Merchandising reinvention spurs success
DeMarie reinvented Hispanic offerings as that demographic showed promise at his location. Using an innovative fixture and refreshing the item mix and merchandising, this category has grown to staggering heights and his reinvention has been implemented at sister stores.
 
The winners receive:

  • A recognition visit with each winner at their store.
  • A trip to IFPA's Global Produce & Floral Show, Oct. 19-21 in Anaheim, CA, where they will be recognized at a special dinner.  
  • Additional recognition on social, trade, and their local media.

The IFPA awards program solicits nominations from anyone in the industry who knows a produce manager who is raising the bar on performance. Find more information at: https://www.freshproduce.com/events/awards/retail-produce-manager-awards-program/.   

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