What makes a great produce manager? Here’s some perspective from industry experts.

 

Rob Ybarra

Director of produce and floral for St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s

“I think first and foremost what makes a great produce manager is are they a people person because in order for you to be a good leader you have to get along with people, you have to motivate people, so that’s the first thing that I look for in terms of who’s the right hire for us as a produce manager,” Ybarra said. “We can teach all the technical things about produce, when it’s grown, where it’s grown, does it need to be refrigerated, if corn is left over four hours on an unrefrigerated display put it back into the cooler or a refrigerated (display), we can teach all those things, but working with people and leading people, that’s ingrained in you, and that’s something that we can’t teach, so that’s what I look for first and foremost is can you work with people.”

Rob Ybarra

The second attribute Ybarra prizes is hustle, a nod to the saying that hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle.

“I look for folks that I can tell are going to hustle,” Ybarra said. “When you meet folks, you know right away that this person’s talented, but if they’re not hustling, they’re going to get outworked by somebody that has the hustle. I’ve always gone by that mantra, and it’s always worked for me.”

 

Jeff Cady

Director of produce and floral for Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Friendly Markets

“I think it starts with, they have to be hard-working,” Cady said. “It’s not a job for the faint of heart and the person that’s just willing to skirt by. They have to be hard-working. They have to be resourceful because there’s so many different things that get thrown their way, and maybe there’s not a cut-and-dry answer, so they’re going to have to be able to bob and weave and be resourceful.

Jeff Cady

“Creative obviously is a key one, got to be smart because being able to order products and understand trends and try to keep inventory control, all those things that they’re accountable for, so they have to have a good head on their shoulders,” Cady said. “ ... I’ve seen good produce managers that are great extroverts, there’s other ones that are introverts, I’ve seen both types succeed ... As long as they’re genuinely personable, I think that that works. And then patient and good communication skills — and great merchandiser.”

 

Mike Orf

Group vice president of produce purchasing for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee

“A great produce manager begins with someone who has a passion for produce,” Orf said. “They are creative, and use the wide spectrum of color to paint their department with flair and seasonality. They present their departments differently than the any other retailer in the area.

Mike Orf

“They focus on their customers, know what their preferences are and advise them on selection, preparation and the benefits of each item,” Orf said. “A great produce manager also teaches their team about the products being offered and the best ways to display produce with incredible presentation.”

 

Scott Bennett

Produce sales and merchandising manager with Itasca, Ill.-based Jewel-Osco

“Someone that’s energetic and willing to work hard because produce is hard work,” Bennett said. “You’ve got to have energy.

Scott Bennett

“They’ve got to have some excitability in them,” Bennett said. “They’ve got to have energy and they’ve got to be wanting to do stuff, otherwise you’re not going to get what you want. As you know, in produce you’ve got to move fast every day.”

 

Louis Scagnelli 

Director of produce and floral for Alpha 1 Marketing, an affiliate of White Plains, N.Y.-based Krasdale Foods

“I think number one is a guy who takes pride in his work and who likes his work,” Scagnelli said.

Louis Scagnelli

“If you find someone that really takes pride in their department, they own their department, you’re not going to beat that," Scagnelli said. "When you going into a store, they want to show you how good their department is and they want to show you how much better it is than the competition.”

 


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