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The 2016 Produce Retailer of the Year is headed to sunny Southern California.

Paul Kneeland, who led the fresh merchandising at Ahold Delhaize’s millennial-focused start-up banner Fresh Formats LLC, starts a new job as senior director of produce and floral for Gelson’s Markets, Encino, Calif., May 1.

Gelson’s, known for its uncompromising commitment to quality, is a good fit, Kneeland says.

“I like their strategy – the high end go-to-market strategy,” he says. “From a quality aspect, a customer service aspect, and from their positioning in the market, it’s a great company.”

Gelson’s, which opened in the summer of 1951, has been growing rapidly over the past few years. It was acquired by the private investment firm TPG in 2014, and the company picked up half a dozen former Haggen stores in late 2015. Currently in 25 locations in the Los Angeles and San Diego markets, it continues to expand and improve existing locations.

“They’re a growing company, and remodeling stores,” Kneeland says. “I’m looking forward to that.”

Kneeland, 52, started his career in Boston at Roche Bros., where he spent 26 years before joining Kings Super Markets in Parsippany, N.J., in 2007. He left Kings in 2015 to lead the launch of Fresh Formats for Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, eventually opening several small format, urban stores under the bfresh banner.

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