IFPA has honored 15 of the industry’s top retail produce managers for their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, community service, and customer satisfaction.
The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) has revealed the 15 winners of its 2023 Retail Awards. 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.
One of those honored for creativity in merchandising is Greg Kimmel, a 38-year veteran of Hy-Vee and the produce manager at the Utica Ridge Hy-Vee in Davenport, Iowa. Kimmel wants customers to stop in their tracks and do a double take. As an artist, he blends colors and adds extra touches to create an unforgettable masterpiece within his produce department.
Kimmel began his career with Hy-Vee in 1985 and has worked in produce for nearly his entire career. For 23 years, he’s led top-performing produce departments across the company.
“I am so incredibly honored to win this award,” Kimmel said. “There is a reason why I’ve been in produce for 38 years. I am passionate about the work, and it makes it even easier when you work with a great team.”
“When customers visit the Utica Ridge Hy-Vee, the first thing they see are Greg’s eye-catching produce displays,” said Ryan Roberts, EVP, perishables at Hy-Vee. “His creativity and extensive product knowledge make him very deserving of this award.”
The other 14 winners for this year’s IFPA Retail Awards are listed below, along with their their attributes:
Patrick O'Brien, of Albertsons Co., Denver: O’Brien creates displays that look great and 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, Texas: 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, Wash.: Marquand has an acute understanding of the power of relationships with her customers and suppliers alike. These relationships allow her to better feed her neighborhood and build sales.
Jenn Lane, of Harris Teeter, Cornelius, N.C.: Over the last year, Lane has had a sales increase of 11.58% over the previous year, additionally outpacing her budget by 13.44%. For Valentines Day 202,3 she outpaced 42 stores within the southern region that perform above her weekly average sales by volume.
Skylar Leonard, of K-VA-T Food Stores Inc./dba Food City, Piney Flats, Tenn.: 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, N.C.: Hyatt and his team have been recognized by their guests as the premier destination for fresh fruits, vegetables and floral within Southern Pines. Quality and freshness are his goals.
Timothy F. Baker, of Orcas Island Market, Eastsound, Wash.: Baker and his associates 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, which was a big hit with local pig farmers.
Gary Lasalle, of Price Chopper/Market 32 Supermarket, New Hartford, N.Y.: As a community leader, Gary 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, Miss.: Williams’ produce knowledge has helped him advance quickly. He’s 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, Ore.: 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 that Alsberg taught them about, including taste, crunch, density and ability to display. Then the teachers turned this fun activity into math and health teaching opportunities.
Mark Bentley, of Southeastern Grocers, St. Johns, Fla.: 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, Ind.: 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.: Norris’ creativity elevates displays, particularly amplifying special events, holidays and promotions to tell the stories of brand and supplier partners while driving sales.
Christopher DeMarie, of Tops Markets, Dunkirk, N.Y.: DeMarie reinvented Hispanic offerings when that demographic showed promise at his location. Using an innovative fixture and refreshing the item mix and merchandising, He has grown this category, and his reinvention has been implemented at sister stores.
The IFPA chooses 15 produce managers from the United States and Canada each year for the award; five of those 15 are named grand-prize recipients at the association’s Global Produce and Floral Show, set for Oct. 19-21 in Anaheim, Calif. Nominees are judged on their merchandising skills, leadership and community involvement.