The International Fresh Produce Association’s Retail Merchant Innovation Awards Program recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of a Vice President, Director or Sales Manager (or equivalent position) in the retail sector that demonstrates passion and purpose in developing innovative strategies to drive produce consumption.
We are looking for engaging stories that show how those strategies were brought to life in the retail setting, and the impact it had on consumers. The winners of this award will inspire others in the industry to think creatively about their approach to produce marketing.
This award recognizes the “best of the best” retailers (including wholesale grocers) in five store-count categories, and winners will be recognized onstage at The Global Produce & Floral Show in Anaheim in October. One winner will be named in each of these:
- 1-50 stores
- 51-150 stores
- 151-250 stores
- 251-399 stores
- 400+ stores
Nominations open April 3, 2023 through July 28, 2023.
The 5 winners will be recognized on stage at the Retail Awards Reception at the Global Produce & Floral show, October 20th in Anaheim, California
IFPA 2023 Retail Merchant Innovation Award Winners
B&R Stores, Inc. (1-50 stores)
Director of Produce
Randy effectively uses ad planning, item planning, competitiveness team building, and quality communication, according to a nominator. Consumers wait with bated breath for particular promotions each year. He uses cutting-edge technology for planning and real-time actionable data to inform his decisions.
With experience as a produce clerk, produce manager, and produce director, Randy currently directs the total produce operations of five banners that includes 34 stores in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri supplied by Associated Wholesale Grocers. “In my past 45 years in produce, I have seen a lot of change and opportunities to help me run processes more efficiently and in a timely manner.”
Price Chopper & Market 32 (51-150 stores)
Christina overhauled the corporate strategy to improve everyday pricing on produce while maintaining margin dollars and driving tonnage, according to one of her nominators. The impact improved the chain’s competitive position and contributed to gains in unit market share. She led a cross-functional Produce Refresh project to update and modernize merchandising fixtures and layouts in more than 70 stores, helping to create a “market” feel to the produce department. Refreshed store sales exceeded baseline store performance and consistently garner higher consumer feedback scores. She continuously focuses on driving topline sales through exciting selling events. She engages the internal team, understands content marketing, collaborates with the operations team on efficiencies, and mentors staff.
Born and raised in Guilderland, NY, Christina was always active in the community through academic groups, athletics, community service, and other activities. After receiving a bachelor's and master's degree from Jack Welsh School of Business at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, Christina became intrigued by career opportunities in the food industry. Shortly after graduating, she joined the Price Chopper team in 2010. Over the last 13 years she’s worked in procurement and merchandising, most recently as the director of produce merchandising. Christina was also recognized by Produce Business as a “40 Under 40” award winner for 2023. “Outside of work, I enjoy most of my time with my husband, Steven, and our three tremendous children. Together we enjoy cooking, playing sports, and being outdoors.”
Albertsons Companies – Safeway NorCal Division (151-250 stores)
Produce Sales Manager
Mil’s marketing initiatives are vast, from his focus on California-grown to marketing initiatives for fresh-cut, berries, grilling vegetables, etc., both in stores and electronically, according to his nomination. His merchandising focus is to maximize sales throughout his department and store, evaluating every display for the contribution to the overall department. Mil’s “power of fresh” aisle features secondary displays of key fresh items displayed in a high-traffic power alley. Mil also leads in innovation, creating more than 30 new recipes in the fresh-cut operation to drive produce consumption, as well as innovative approaches to equipment, merchandising, and display ideas. This innovation leads to an innovative customer experience that can only be found at Nor Cal Safeway.
Mil began his career with Safeway in 1984 in San Pedro, CA. He worked his way from a courtesy clerk to produce manager to field merchandiser in the Vons Division. Mil was promoted in 2004 to manager of division operations, then in 2008 to regional director overseeing several divisions at Safeway corporate headquarters. At the merger of Albertsons and Safeway, Mil was promoted to vice president of produce operations and ran the NorCal Division Produce Department. During his time managing the largest produce division in the company, Mil has brought so much innovation into the division from merchandising fixtures to new items that have been shared with the Albertsons/Safeway company.
Sprouts Farmers Market (251-399 stores)
Senior Category Manager
A supplier who nominated Erin notes that their merchandising team worked with Erin to develop a new organic package. Together, they worked on setting up four new items, which she contributed her personal intervention to accomplish. She provided valuable input for the development of the package and offered feedback about how it could be merchandised in stores. She then arranged for initial testing in a few stores and expanded to three distribution centers. Erin changed product set, making strategic changes to the display and merchandising. She then communicated those changes with store teams to ensure a successful launch. It takes a lot of extra work and collaboration, but this is essential to our industry's growth and ability to respond to changing market conditions and consumers. Erin is an advocate for the growers who she believes in and wants to partner with. Her ability to advocate for the grower to company leadership is critical to the success of the collaboration. She is willing to do the extra work to bring the best products and experience to consumers. She is also a champion for store teams.
For 35 years, Erin has left her innovative touch on her commodity categories, including avocados, tropicals, apples, pears, citrus, grapes, tomatoes, fresh herbs, mushrooms, sprouts, the complete berry and stone fruit categories, and cherries. Currently, her focus has been to bring customers the best-tasting and the widest variety of products in their many marketplaces. “I have enjoyed my over 40 years within the produce industry which included retail, foodservice, and grower/shippers. Through those years, my continued key focus has been innovation. This has proven to be many of my proudest moments. Innovation within our industry is what has brought us all to the business point today.”
Albertsons Companies (400+ stores)
National Vice President Produce
Shawn is an excellent retailer who knows the business cold and is constantly seeking new solutions to innovate in produce, according to his nomination. Shawn is constantly in the market seeking new and innovative ways to drive growth. He tries new merchandising solutions, planograms, and supplier solutions to drive growth. He has increased distribution, promotion frequency, and breadth across divisions. Shawn demonstrates dedication, commitment to excellence, and efforts to push the supplier community to innovate and seek breakthrough solutions.
With 38 years of industry experience, 34 of those at Albertsons Companies, Shawn has worked his way up the ranks to his current position beginning with produce clerk to produce manager, assistant produce sales manager, category manager, business development manager, produce/floral sales manager and vice president produce. “There are many things that I wish to accomplish in my current role, I will just focus on three. My first goal includes growing and developing our current talent base through mentorship, collaboration, coaching, and sharing the knowledge that has been passed to me over the years. Another goal is to continue to grow our produce market share, produce consumption, own-brand penetration, and our market position through our strategies which will ultimately drive shareholder value. My third goal is centered on growing our strategic grower/vendor partnerships, building on our relationship of trust and loyalty, allowing us to offer the freshest and best quality produce for our customers.”
Thank you to our sponsor
Produce Sales Manager
Regional Vice President
Produce and Floral Merchandising