PASADENA, Calif. — Look for the La Mirada-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council to reach out to the next generation of produce professionals during the coming year.

FPFC chairman sets sights on next generationThat will be a primary goal of Mike Casazza, 2013 chairman of the board.

Casazza, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Guadalupe-based Apio Inc., was formally introduced to FPFC members at the organization’s annual dinner-dance Jan. 26, along with chairman-elect Rich Van Valkenburg, partner and chief operating officer at Van Valkenburg & Associates, Capistrano Beach; treasurer/secretary Brad Martin, owner and president of Perimeter Sales & Merchandising, Los Alamitos; and other board members.

Rick Cruz, manager of division operations for produce at the Santa Fe Springs location of Pleasanton-based Vons/Safeway supermarkets, is immediate past chairman.

“I want to get more of the next generation — the industry leaders — actively involved with the FPFC,” Casazza said, “Kind of open up to the next generation all the value and the history of the FPFC.”

Effort from many individuals in the industry has brought the FPFC to where it is today, he said.

“I’m going to try to work extra hard this year to get that next generation more actively involved in the committees, give them access to everything we’re doing at the FPFC and continue to lay the foundation for the future growth of the FPFC,” he said.

Plans also include continuing the council’s growth among industry members in Northern California.

Looking over the past year, outgoing chairman Cruz said one of the FPFC’s biggest achievements in 2012 was putting two salad bars into California schools.

The council plans to donate at least two more salad bars in 2013.

“I was not aware of how badly our schools really need salad bars,” he said.

Cruz also was pleased with the increased participation he’s seen on FPFC committees and with the success of events like golf tournaments, bowling tournament and Family Day at the Races.

“The (events) that I like the most are the ones where we give back to the members,” he said. “It’s all about giving back and thanking the members for all of their hard work and contributions.”

Casazza, the incoming chairman, began his produce career in 1990 at the Long Beach, Calif., office of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce, as Western region foodservice sales manager. Within two years, he was promoted to vice president, Western region and then to vice president of North American Sales.

He was named executive vice president of sales and marketing at Apio in 1999.

Casazza has been a member of FPFC for more than 20 years. He served on several committees and joined the board of directors in 2007.

Until recently, he served on the advisory committee of the Southeastern Produce Council.

Elected directors were also introduced:

  • Mark Carroll, Gelson’s/Mayfair Markets;
  • Brian Cook, San Miguel Produce;
  • Greg Corrigan, Raley’s Supermarkets;
  • Kelly Craner, B&C Fresh Sales;
  • Dave Howald, California Avocado Commission;
  • Debbie Jackson, Supervalu;
  • Kent Kuwata, Smart & Final Corp.;
  • Rick Montoya, Ready Pac Foods Inc.;
  • Jeff Oberman, United Fresh Produce Association;
  • Jennifer Pelayo, Advantage Sales & Marketing;
  • Chris Robinson, The Pinery LLC;
  • Roger Schroeder, Stater Bros. Markets;
  • Ken Silveira, Mastronardi Produce; and
  • Connie Stukenberg, CS Sales & Marketing for Results.