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Thought-Leaders Panel To Kick Off New York Produce Show And Conference’s Trade Show Day

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 9, 2013

A special highlight of The New York Produce Show And Conference is the opening Perishable Pundit “Thought Leaders” Breakfast. The center of the event is a no-holds-barred panel, featuring top thought leaders drawn from the powerhouse retailers of the region, combined with a twist -- key players from the foodservice industry, a wholesaler representing the customers from terminal markets, and an experienced global player who can offer a completely different perspective.

It is unscripted discussion with people who make a difference every day. And there is nothing quite like anywhere else.

The industry owes a debt of gratitude to each thought-leader for being willing to share their expertise and, in so doing, to help elevate the entire industry.

It is a privilege and an honor to reveal the esteemed panel for the 2013 edition of breakfast that opens the trade show portion of The New York Produce Show and Conference.

The 2013 Perishable Pundit’s “Thought Leaders” Panel:

Retailers

ERIC BEELITZ
Director of Produce & Floral
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company

Eric started his career in 1973 as a produce clerk with Pathmark Stores Inc. His produce expertise quickly led to several store management positions. In 2011, Eric was named Director of Produce and Floral for Waldbaums, The Food Emporium, A&P, Pathmark, Food Basics, and Superfresh stores. In his current position Eric is responsible for all merchandising, procurement, pricing, and promotion for all of these banners.

DERRICK JENKINS
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Wakefern Food Corporation

Starting his career at Wakefern in 1982, Derrick got his first taste of what the world of produce was all about when he worked as a junior accountant reporting to the produce division. From that position, he rose up the ranks to his current position of Vice President of Produce and Floral. Derrick credits his mentors, Herman Fadem and Al Ferri: “They worked with me at the early stages of my career and helped me lay a foundation upon which I could build a successful personal and professional career.”

Derrick is a member of the Eastern Produce Council and serves on the Board of PMA. He is married and has four children.

CHRIS KEETCH
Category Manager
Ahold USA

In 1994, Chris was hired as a produce clerk at Albertsons in Boise, ID. He immediately knew the fit was good so he decided to earn a degree in Business Management at Boise State University.  As a clerk, assistant manager and manager, 14 years at store level was instrumental in developing a full understanding of merchandising, pricing and assortment along with the importance of anticipating customer needs, wants and expectations.  Gaining that experience and insight led him to the next career chapter in September 2010 as a merchandiser at Ahold USA. Now Chris works as fruit category manager,  in which he is responsible for developing plans to profitably drive sales in an ever-changing retail landscape. 

“Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is important to me professionally and personally.  Working with my team and vendor partners, I have supported initiatives through various company-supported charitable programs.  One of my favorite things about Produce is the fact that it changes by the day, by the hour and by the minute.  Whether we are facing weather-related issues or changing consumer tastes/expectations, there is never a dull moment.”

PAUL KNEELAND
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Kings Super Markets

An industry veteran for more than 30 years, Paul has been in his position at Kings since June 2007. In addition to overseeing produce and floral for Kings Super Markets in New Jersey and in Long Island, Paul also oversees produce and floral for Balducci's Food Lover's Markets with stores in Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and Virginia.

Paul is Vice President of the Eastern Produce Council and chair of its New York Produce Show and Conference committee. 

TONY MIRAK
Produce/Floral Buyer Merchandiser & Procurement
McCaffrey’s Markets

Tony Mirak has been associated with McCaffrey’s Markets as Produce/Floral Merchandiser and Procurement for the past 13 years. His responsibilities are all phases of produce and floral operations, including retail merchandising, procurement, advertising, development of new products and sales strategies.

His personal mission is to deliver excitement and enthusiasm to the produce and floral industries and the future directions in his own inspiring way. His expertise is in produce and floral merchandising, motivation, marketing strategies and training.

He was associated with two major produce wholesalers and an independent supermarket as a Buyer, Produce Specialist and Produce Manager for over 26 years.

VIC SAVANELLO
Director of Produce and Floral
Allegiance Retail Services

Vic has more than 35 years’ experience in the supermarket industry. His responsibilities at Allegiance include managing sales, coordinating advertising, merchandising, operational activities and managing the procurement of product for more than 85 member stores under the Foodtown and D’Agostino’s banners in NJ, NY, and PA. Previous to Allegiance, Vic was employed for more than 22 years at Wakefern Food Corporation, where he served most recently as a Category Manager during his past 15 years of service.

Vic is currently a Vice President of the Eastern Produce Council, a position he has held since 2010. Vic serves on the Expo Committee, Membership Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and is Co-Chairman of the Eastern Produce Council Golf Outing Committee. Vic is a graduate of William Paterson University and resides in West Caldwell, NJ, with his wife Maria, their son Dante and daughter Mia.

ERIC STONE
Produce Merchant
Fresh Direct

Eric Stone is the Produce Merchant at popular online grocer FreshDirect. He spends about half of his time traveling the country, developing relationships with farmers to source produce that is differentiating and of the highest quality. He joined FreshDirect after graduating college in 2008, working his way up in the department during the past 5+ years. During that time, he has doubled the department’s sales and transformed FreshDirect’s supply chain to a direct-from-the-source model, improving quality and reducing cost. Eric earned his degree in Finance and Philosophy from the University of Maryland and currently lives in Manhattan enjoying everything the NYC food scene has to offer.

STEVE WRIGHT
Director of Produce/Floral
Tops Markets.

This year Steve was honored as the 2013 Produce Retailer of the Year by the Produce Retailer magazine.  Tops Markets is a leading full-service grocery retailer operating 156 stores in upstate New York, Northern Pennsylvania, and Western Vermont. A 31-year industry veteran, Steve's background includes extensive experience in retail, wholesale, procurement and sales.

Foodservice Distributors

RICH DACHMAN
Vice President of Produce
Sysco Corporation

Rich Dachman is a native of Denver, CO, and attended Colorado State University. He began his produce career at his family-owned business in Denver.  Following the sale of the family business, he and his father opened a new foodservice operation in Denver for Kraft Foods, Inc. before joining Kraft’s corporate office in Chicago as national director of produce in 1987. 

In 1992 he joined FreshPoint Inc. and was president of FreshPoint Operating Companies in Houston, Denver, Atlanta and their central procurement office in Salinas, CA. When Sysco acquired FreshPoint in 2000, he was appointed to the position as senior vice president, Western Region, and in 2007 was promoted to vice president of produce for Sysco Corporation. Rich served as chairman for the Produce Marketing Association in 2012.

TIM YORK
President
Markon

Tim York started working in the produce industry more than 35 years ago at H. Hall & Company, a grower/shipper of strawberries and mixed vegetables. In addition to being a founding employee and the current President of Markon, Tim also has held numerous committee and task force positions, including Member, USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Council; Chairman of the Produce Marketing Association (2002); Director of the PMA; Chairman of PMA’s Foodservice Division; Chairman, Center for Produce Safety Advisory Board; and is a founding member of the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. Now that Tim and his wife have seen their youngest off to college, he is enjoying the extra time he has to spend with his new grandson.

Wholesale

JOEL FIERMAN
President
Fierman Produce Exchange, Inc.

Joel Fierman is the President of Joseph Fierman & Son, Bronx, NY, and has served as Chairman of the Public Relations Committee of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association, Bronx, NY. The third generation of his family to run the wholesale produce business, Joel has directed the transformation of his family business from that of a traditional potato and onion house into a much larger, modern full line wholesaler. Hunts Point serves as the central distribution center for many of the New York Metro area’s independent supermarkets and produce stands, plus many restaurants. It also serves as a marketing arm for growers and shippers, prepared to help them sell the products they need to.

International Delegate

HAZEL AKEHURST
Head of UK Sales and Marketing
Capespan International Ltd. (formerly of Red Tractor Assurance, Thanet Earth and Mack Multiples)

Hazel is part of a new generation of talent entering the UK Fresh Produce industry, delivering growth by bringing together dynamic growers and intelligent consumer insight.

Hazel graduated from Oxford University with a BA in Modern History, before heading straight to the fresh produce industry. Her career started in marketing, working for Fresca Group, the UK’s largest privately owned fresh produce company. Supporting the hot house veg commercial team, she steered premium retailers Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Sainsbury’s on their sales and marketing strategy.   

Her next break was at Thanet Earth – the UK’s largest greenhouse development, growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. This pioneering, $130M investment is credited with revitalizing the UK’s protected crops industry. Soon after joining, Hazel moved up to the role of account manager, growing the Tesco business into the project’s leading account.

In 2012, she moved to Red Tractor Assurance, the UK’s leading quality standard across all fresh food. The role had her working with the top management at all UK retailers, food service companies, farming unions and industry bodies on promoting the Red Tractor scheme. Today the Red Tractor logo is used on $20bn worth of fresh food in the UK.

Missing the cut and thrust of Fresh Produce, Hazel was lured back into the industry with the top UK sales slot at the prestigious international fruit company, Capespan. In just a few years, Hazel has carved out an impressive reputation for being a passionate supporter of growers and a consumer champion, combining consumer trends with growth opportunities in a fast moving industry.

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The breakfast starts sharp at 8:00 AM on Wednesday.  It takes place at Pier 94 and you can walk directly from the breakfast to the trade show indoors. So be there in plenty of time to get a good seat.

If you yet haven’t registered for the Breakfast or for the rest of The New York Produce Show and Conference, you can do so right here.

Registration is available at the door, but doing it online will save you a wait.

And if you need help with hotels or any additional information about the show, please let us know here.

See you in New York!

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