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The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation is now accepting nominations for the 2010 United Fresh Retail Produce Manager Awards Program.

Established in 2005 by founding sponsor Ready Pac Foods Inc., the program will honor 25 retail produce managers at the store level and include their corporate produce directors in a formal recognition at the United Fresh 2010 convention to be held April 20-23 in Las Vegas.

"Retail produce managers have such a huge responsibility within our industry," Reggie Griffin, vice president of produce and floral merchandising and procurement for Kroger, and chairman of United's Retail-Foodservice Board, said in a Dec. 1 press release. "They represent the front lines of the produce business and have a key opportunity for direct interaction with the consumer. Retail produce managers, through innovative displays, promotions and sheer creativity, have a direct and tangible effect on all of our bottom lines."

The 25 award winners and their corporate produce directors will receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to United Fresh 2010. The winners will be honored at the annual United Fresh awards banquet Thursday, April 22, where five grand-prize winners will be announced as recipients of an additional $1,000 cash prize.

"Retail produce managers can make a real difference to our consumers, our companies and our industry," Michael Solomon, president and chief executive officer of Ready Pac Foods Inc., said in the release. "Ready Pac is very pleased to honor the best and brightest managers for the incredible work they do every day on our industry's behalf, and we are proud to be the sponsor of the Retail Produce Manager Awards Program."

"The continual support from supermarket executives to honor their front-line produce staff has been tremendous," United Fresh President Tom Stenzel added in the release. "Every year, senior retail executives attend the awards ceremony to show their support for their winners. Great employees, empowered by their management, make a huge difference in store sales."

Nominations must be received by Feb. 1, 2010.

"This program presents a tremendous opportunity for retailers and produce companies who work closely with retail companies to submit nominations as a way of recognizing store-level produce managers who excel in their role," Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation, said in the release.