Dole's Bil Goldfield Discusses 2017 Retail Produce Manager Awards Program

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Thu. December 8th, 2016 - by Jordan Okumura-Wright

THOUSAND OAKS, CA - Always on the front lines of produce departments, helping to drive sales and increase consumer loyalty while contributing to the dialogue between the retailer and the shopper–are produce managers. This essential position brings the face of fresh direct to the consumer, and our industry is forever grateful for their role.

As we look toward the United Fresh 2017 Retail Produce Manager Awards Program, Bil Goldfield, Director of Corporate Communications for Dole Food Company, joined me to discuss Dole’s role in the program, its dedicated sponsorship, and why produce managers are crucial to our industry’s success.

Bil Goldfield, Director of Corporate Communications, Dole Food Company“We had long felt this was a very worthwhile program so when we had the opportunity to take over sponsorship of the program, we jumped at the chance,” Bil shared with me as we talked about what inspired the company to jump on-board. “It gives us a way to say, ‘thank you’ to the people who are the face of the industry to consumers.”

Produce managers represent our entire industry to customers, Bil adds, so in many ways they are a representative of each and every produce brand that their department carries.

Now in its 13th year, this program will recognize 25 outstanding retail produce managers in 2017, for their innovative merchandising, produce-related community outreach, increased store sales, and recognition among company peers. And the impact has been huge. To date, 280 produce managers from over 90 different retail banners have been honored. Nomination forms may be accessed online by clicking here and must be received by Friday January 6, 2017.

2016 Winners of the Retail Produce Manager Awards Program

“We each count on them to showcase our product in the best way. By having a department with the freshest possible fruits and vegetables that are merchandised attractively, led by a produce manager who is a wealth of knowledge about his or her products, the produce will fly off the shelves,” Bil said, noting that by educating consumers about new types of fruits and vegetables, these foods will represent an even greater percentage of a person’s total diet. “That means people overall will be healthier, which benefits us all.”

So, what elements of the program does the Dole team help to facilitate, craft, and execute? The company is a key part of the submission review team and, after United Fresh selects the winners, joins United Fresh in celebrating each winner’s success in their home store around North America.

United Fresh's Tom Stenzel with award recipient Amy Lincoln of Coborn's at 2016's award ceremony

Last year Dole acknowledged each winner with a custom apron and cap, store signage, and a FitBit, and also assisted in their orientation during the United Fresh Convention. Each winner has an assigned Dole representative who they can call at any time with questions. That representative sits at the winner’s table at the United Fresh Retail-Foodservice Awards Banquet to celebrate with them, as well as the person who nominated them. Dole also makes a concerted effort to bring well-deserved industry recognition to each of them, with trade advertising announcements and press contributions to promote their achievements.

“The produce managers of today are the Perishable VPs of tomorrow,” Bil said. “Having exposure to other winners allows them the opportunity to exchange ideas for making their departments even better, and being a part of the United Fresh Convention gives them the chance to attend seminars and meet people who they would otherwise not have a chance to meet. All of these influences mean that they will have an expanded view of future opportunities for their departments and for themselves.”

Produce managers spend a lot of time educating their customers about fruits and vegetables—from questions like, “What is this?” to “How do I prepare this?” to “What would go with this?” to “How do I know this is ripe?”

Hy-Vee Retail Produce Manager Dan Hanson posing with his 2016 award with Hy-Vee's Assistant Vice President of Produce Operations Mike Orf at last year's ceremony

“They need to be part teacher and part chef every day,” Bil shared. And from his experiences with the program he knows that they also LOVE to have school classes visit their departments. “Most of the produce managers who have won the award pride themselves on getting kids to try new things so they ask their parents to buy it for them during the next shopping trip. The kids also like showing off their knowledge of produce to their parents and siblings. They are the next generation of produce shoppers.”

Help United Fresh and Dole Food Company honor another group of outstanding produce industry members this year. Next step? Nominate, nominate, nominate!

Dole Food Company United Fresh