John Hubbard, a longtime veteran of the produce industry, will retire from Supervalu’s Eastern Region division April 29 after a career that spanned more than four decades.
Mr. Hubbard began his grocery career in 1963 when he joined Jewell Tea Co. as a utility clerk. He worked at several other retail operations, including the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Loblaw/Peter J. Schmidt Inc.and Fisher Fazio, before joining Richfood in 1988 as director of produce. He was promoted to vice president of produce operations for Richfood in 1991.
Richfood serviced retail chains and independent operations on the East Coast, from the Carolinas north to New York state. It also owned and supplied two retail chains, Farms Fresh in the Norfolk-Tidewater region in Virgina, and Shoppers Food Warehouse in the Baltimore-Washington, DC, area.
Upon Supervalu’s acquisition of Richfood in 1999, Mr. Hubbard was named vice president of produce procurement, a post he held until 2003, at which time he was named director of perishable logistics for meat, deli, bakery, seafood and produce. Following some recent restructuring at the company, he is retiring from Supervalu as senior merchandiser for produce and floral, where he directed the region’s produce merchandising field staff while working with Supervalu’s W. Newell produce procurement division.
Speaking with The Produce News March 23 from his office at Supervalu’s Eastern Region, which is located in Mechanicsburg, VA, Mr. Hubbard said that there have been numerous changes that have spanned his career in the produce industry.
“First, there has been tremendous growth in fresh produce as people are more concerned about eating healthy,” he said. “Availability is much different today. You can get everything year round. Years ago, everything was seasonal. When strawberries or stone fruit from California were finished, you had to wait until the next season before you could get it again. Now, products are imported from all over the world, and you can get anything at any time of the year.
“Technology and transportation are also more advanced,” he continued. “But all the changes have been to the benefit of the consumer, and without the consumer there would be no products to sell.”
In a statement about Mr. Hubbard’s retirement, Tom Finefield, produce and floral sales director for Supervalu’s Eastern Region, said, “John’s guidance and leadership over his 23 years with our company have been instrumental in making Supervalu’s Eastern Region a success. He is well respected thoughout the industry because of his expertise, understanding and knowledge of the industry. John has shared his expertise generously with everyone he has come into contact with in the produce industry. I personally have enjoyed the years I have worked with John and will miss his wisdom, passion for the business and his sense of humor.”
Mike Kamphouse, who is currently vice president of market development for Supervalu’s Eastern Region and who worked with Mr. Hubbard from 2000 to 2004, told The Produce News, “John is one of those individuals who has a rare combination of intellect, drive and experience. He is one of the most innovative people I know in the industry. I have nothing but a world of respect for John, and his departure from Supervalu is a loss to both the company and the produce industry.”
To illustrate his comment about Mr. Hubbard’s innovative nature, Mr. Kamphouse said that when Richfood acquired Norristown Wholesale Produce in 1996, Mr. Hubbard “found a way to bridge those two companies into a single entity. It was not easy to bring those two cultures together.”