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The Produce for Better Health Foundation announced that Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak will replace Elizabeth Pivonka as PBH president and chief executive officer, effective Feb. 21.

"There is no mission more important than securing a place for produce on consumers' plate at every eating occasion, and I'm honored to be selected to lead the industry in achieving this goal," Reinhardt Kapsak, a registered dietitian, said in a press release. "I look forward to partnering with the entire supply chain, from seed to shopping cart to saute pan, ensuring that all forms of produce are central to a health and wellness lifestyle."

Reinhardt Kapsak joins the organization with extensive background in food, nutrition, health and wellness, as well as agriculture, communications and non-profits, having worked for 12 years at the International Food Information Council and most recently as global lead for food, nutrition and health partnerships at the Monsanto Co.

"Wendy has extensive connections in the food and nutrition community as well as in agriculture, combined with great enthusiasm and a vision for the future," Scott Owens, PBH chairman of the board and vice president of sales for Wonderful Citrus, said in the release. "We welcome Wendy to PBH and are looking forward to introducing her to everyone at the upcoming PBH annual conference in Scottsdale [AZ] on April 5-7.

"I would also like to thank the search committee who took valuable time out of their busy schedules to interview candidates by phone and in-person over the past few months," added Owens.

Pivonka retired Feb. 17 after a 26 year career at PBH, including 20 years as president and CEO. 

Fresh departments are the major drawing points in supermarkets today. Fresh is a leading reason consumers choose a specific store to do their regular grocery shopping. It is such an important rationale that most shoppers will bypass other supermarkets that are closer to their homes just for the superior quality and wholesome food of another store. Fresh produce is the primary focal point in making their decision.

Most supermarkets have the same brands of grocery items. Whether it’s soup, coffee, milk, juice or salad dressings, grocery stores offer comparable items and brands at similar prices. However, which store has the best fresh fruit and vegetable department?

Since produce is recognized as the most important department in the store, it then has the most potential for building sales and profit growth for a company. Fresh produce can make a big difference in one store over another. But what and who makes it the best?

Operating a produce department is a fast-paced business and it takes a highly knowledgeable and skilled person to engineer it. That person is the produce manager. He or she has many responsibilities that are often not realized.

I have had inquiries from supermarket owners asking me what the actual job description is for a produce manager. When I ask them for their own description, they can rarely offer a complete picture of the job.

The primary responsibility of the produce manager is to achieve produce sales and gross profit. In addition, he or she is responsible for overseeing all produce personnel in coaching, supervising, evaluating and controlling the entire produce department operation.

Here are 15 basic responsibilities of a produce manager:

Produce sales volume — Build sales growth for the company. Meet budgeted goals set by management. Be sales-minded, enthusiastic and aggressive within the means of controlling expenses.

Produce gross margin — Monitor and generate gross profit margin with special diligence. Use display strategy and product mix to generate profit dollars.  

Merchandising displays — Use creative and unique ingenuity and skills to set the department to convey excellence in workmanship, art of display, customer appeal and innovation.

Inventory management — Control the ordering and assets in a timely manner keeping in mind that sales volume is most important and must never be jeopardized. Put planning, time and thought into ordering product for each category section with little carry over until the next delivery.

Expense control — Manage labor costs through intelligent work scheduling based on sales days, holidays and special promotions. Control utilities like keeping cooler doors closed and lights out when not in use. Maintain clean refrigerated cases and coolers to prevent expensive repair costs. Keep supplies in check.

Shrink control — Maintain freshness throughout the department to prevent shriveling. Oversee employees, especially part-timers, to ensure product waste does not occur. Check all vendors for correct item count and charges. Handle and rotate all items on display carefully to avoid damage loss.

Quality and condition control — Ensure all items are of good quality and condition on arrival and on display at all times. Trim and crisp all items required to maintain freshness and shelf life.

Customer satisfaction — Listen and deliver whatever customers prefer. Be knowledgeable about produce items, including where they originate, their flavor profile, how to prepare them and their availability. Show respect and smile at all times to customers.

Security and protection of assets — Be responsible for locked doors, especially delivery areas. Observe all areas to protect against possible theft. Observe vendors going in and out of delivery doors.

Safety — Prevent customer and employee accidents by controlling floors, displays, mechanical equipment, trimming tools and back-room operations. Be especially cautious of all food products and ensure they are safe for consumers.

Cleanliness and sanitation — Maintain a cleaning and sanitation schedule for all employees to take part in specific assignments. Use only authorized cleaning materials approved for use around food areas.

Supervisory — Allocate a work production list to each employee and check for assignments to be completed. Evaluate the quality and quantity of work of each employee.

Competition checks — Make regular weekly checks of the key competitors produce operations, displays, items and retails.

Work simplification — Devise ways to make tasks easier, faster and safer. Focus on productive work. Keep work motions as simple as possible.

Meetings — Hold weekly meetings with produce employees. Review ad items, seasonal change, promotions, display strategy, operating functions, schedules and sales goals.

There are other responsibilities, but these are significant for achieving superior results. Produce calls for much sophistication these days than in the past. Consumers have more options in choosing their stores. It’s the professional skills by the produce manager that will be the determining factor.

The World Avocado Organization, a Washington, DC-based non-profit that seeks to globally promote the consumption and benefits of avocados on behalf of its member organizations, held its first-ever membership meeting Feb. 7 at The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin, Germany, where more than 120 avocado producer, exporter and importer leaders from the United States, Peru, Mexico, South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Colombia got a look at the organization’s 2017 marketing program in the European Union and United Kingdom.

“For our inaugural membership meeting, we were truly inspired by the level of energy and engagement displayed by our members,” said Jimmy Bosworth, chairman of the WAO. “The WAO’s goal is to jointly promote the growth of avocado markets in Europe and the United Kingdom, and we look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with all of our partners to make that dream a reality.”

The European Union and United Kingdom collectively comprise the second-largest market in the world for imported avocados, consuming more than 800 million pounds (more than 365 million kilos) in 2016 alone.

“This meeting was a very important first step in bringing together some of the varied stakeholders in the avocado market,” added Zac Bard, vice chair of the WAO. “Under the WAO’s unified banner, avocado producers, exporters and importers from around the world will work together to promote avocados for the benefit of all WAO members and European and British avocado consumers.”

As part of the conference agenda, members were briefed on country-specific reports, reviewed agency proposals and heard from key European retailers that will be part of the organization’s first marketing program.

“This undertaking by the WAO is quite unique,” said WAO Chief Executive Officer Xavier Equihua. “Never before has a multi-country organization implemented a generic marketing program of this kind and scale across the EU and U.K. We are extremely excited to see it play out over the course of 2017 and beyond.”

CMI Orchards will launch a spring retail promotion at the beginning of March. Featuring a lineup of some of the freshest apple flavors on the market, CMI’s Season of Flavor program includes Ambrosia, KIKU, Kanzi, Jazz and Pacific Rose.Season-of-Flavor-Logo-for-C

The promotion offers participating retailers incentives and prizes throughout the event for promoting the branded apples with event signage and in-store displays. The Season of Flavor promotion will run for 10 weeks, featuring a different branded apple every two weeks. The promotion is targeted to hit more than 2,000 retail locations.

According to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI Orchards, national supermarket scan data results show that late winter through early spring is prime time for retailers to capture incremental sales with branded apples. “The data reveals that retailers with the strongest performance in the overall apple category focus on extracting incremental sales by highlighting branded apples for their customers,” he said in a press release.

The Season of Flavor promotion was designed to help retailers take advantage of this short window of opportunity to lift category sales. The promotion offers retailers a turnkey program to encourage consumer trialing, helping retailers capture bigger rings at the register.

According to Lutz, most of the branded apples included in this promotion carry retail prices over $2 a pound. “Supermarkets that can shift consumer purchases to higher-priced apples simultaneously drive the average category transaction. Promoting club apples at this time of year just makes good financial sense for retailers,” he said.

In addition to custom incentives for retailers, and produce manager display contests, CMI has created signage and point-of-sale materials to help retailers drive excitement during the Season of Flavor promotion.

Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers has launched its annual winter cucumber program Always in Season on Feb. 17. This program signifies the ramp up of production for all varieties of Ontario greenhouse-grown seedless cucumbers and informs Ontario consumers of their availability during the cold winter months.

The growing demand for Ontario greenhouse seedless cucumbers is motivated by consumers' healthy eating choices. OGVG growers have increased production to ensure the supply is abundant for Ontario consumers and retailers.

“Consumers can once again find fresh, tasty Ontario greenhouse cucumbers in their local stores” OGVG General Manager Rick Seguin said in a press release. “There’s no need to wait”.

This program is supported by key Canadian retailers. This year’s campaign includes new recipe ideas, retailer flyer ads indicating product of Canada and a media campaign designed to raise awareness of availability of locally grown greenhouse seedless cucumbers. For new recipes and other meal ideas visit www.OGVG.com.