CHICAGO—For me, the United Fresh Show caps off a busy season of trade shows, before they pick back up in the fall.
While we should all go into “trade show season” with the idea that each one brings something different to the table, it’s hard not to make some comparisons. Who’s got the best venue? How many buyers were there?
How was the food? This is a topic that, not surprisingly, people whose careers revolve around excellent fruits and vegetables take very seriously. I remember my time as the Food Czar for Viva Fresh when it was in Austin, and our steering committee worked me hard trying to ensure every eating occasion matched the show’s vision. It was a great time, and I do remember the food being beyond excellent.
United Fresh, for me, has always meant an opportunity to hear from the winners of the Retail Produce Manager Awards program, to learn what they find so engaging about this business, to learn what drives them to be the best of the best in a role that is often overlooked.
During a panel discussion of selected winners, we heard from women and men who, clearly, poured their heart into their jobs.
“Keep it fresh, keep it full,” was heard often, of course, but there were a few key things that stood out to me.
One winner, Shelly Carlock from FoodMaxx/The SaveMart Cos., Redding, Calif., spoke fondly of children she’d been seeing year after year in her stores, ones she hoped to connect with and keep as customers once they became the family’s shoppers.
“They come in, and know me by name,” she said. “Hopefully, when they grow up they’ll come into our store and shop.”
When asked about introducing new items, Devan Hoffer of Marketplace Foods, Minot, N.D., takes a longer term view than just a week of samples.
“Let’s build a three month plan, because it takes 12 weeks for someone to build a habit,” he said. “Let’s bring it in and go all the way.”
When asked how they try to manage time, as produce managers are often held accountable for how the department looks at “both 7s,” (7 a.m. and 7 p.m.), you could tell a healthy chunk of them were a guilty of being workaholics, but a few also said they make sure to train their department well so they don’t have to be there to worry about both open and close.
Mandy Aniciete, produce manager for the Mt. Pleasant, Texas, location for Brookshire Grocery Co., (and Grand Prize winner this year!) had one of my favorite comments about what he loves about his job.
“We do it every single day and have fun…and just…have fun,” he said.