The United Fresh Produce Association has chosen H-E-B Group Vice President of Fresh Foods Hugh Topper as the recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Topper, who has been at the San Antonio-based retailer for 26 years, plans to retire at the end of the year, according to a news release.

“As Hugh plans his retirement at the end of this year, I can’t think of a more deserving individual to recognize for his more than 35 years serving the produce industry,” United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said in the release.

Topper began his career at Fleming Foods Co., covering California, Kansas, Missouri and Texas for 10 years, as quality assurance manager, produce merchandiser, produce operations manager, and manager of frozen food/dairy operations, according to the release.

He has served in a number of positions at H-E-B, including produce category manager, director of produce procurement, vice president of produce procurement, vice president of produce, chief merchant for the Central Market Division and group vice president of fresh foods, according to the release.

Topper has served on numerous industry boards, including those of United Fresh, United Fresh Start Foundation, chairman of the Produce Marketing Association’s Produce Electric Identification Board, the Texas International Produce Association and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

In Sequin, Texas, elementary schools, Topper started a salad bar program with support from H-E-B. He also created “Let’s Get Growing,” targeting healthy eating habits in low-income South Texas elementary schools.

Topper will be honored at the annual United Fresh Foundation Gala Dinner Jan. 16, at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego.

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