(June 27) On paper, Aubrey Horton is perhaps best-known for developing the foodservice program at the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission.

Those who have met Horton praise him for his work ethic, compassion and presentation abilities.

After 30 years of experience in the produce industry, the regional marketing representative at Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co. will retire. He will continue to work for Rainier a couple times each month from his Mount Holly, N.C., home.

Horton’s retirement is a loss to the industry, said Steve Fox, partner in YoBites LLC, Yakima, Wash. In the early 1990s, Fox and Horton developed the foodservice program for the Washington Apple Commission.

People of Horton’s caliber, character and experience are difficult to find, Fox said.

“He is the ultimate professional — the ultimate gentleman,” Fox said. “He is a kind, wonderful human being.”

Although Fox has more than 30 years of experience in the produce industry, he said he has learned valuable lessons from Horton. Horton showed compassion for the people he dealt with and he even helped competitors, Fox said.

David Parkinson, vice president of sales at St. Clair Foods Inc., Memphis, Tenn., also said he was struck by Horton’s helpful nature. Parkinson said Horton helped him when he joined the Washington Apple Commission as a regional manager in 1995.

“In those days, they would say, ‘Go out and promote apples in foodservice.’ They didn’t really define ways to do it,” Parkinson said. “He (Horton) showed me promotions he’d done and designed.”

For example, Horton, 66, shared an apple sales contest idea with Parkinson. The broadline distributor that sold the most apples would win a prize, Parkinson said.
Unlike impersonal retail advertisements, Parkinson said foodservice promotions required such incentives and one-on-one interaction.

Horton also warmed up to people by talking to them about all commodities — not just apples, Parkinson said.

Horton’s genuine humility and ability to communicate didn’t hurt either, said Ned Ron, director of the fresh-cut program at Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash.

Horton became familiar with the foodservice industry by working as a waiter in the cafeteria at the University of South Carolina. When Horton graduated in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting, the cafeteria’s foodservice company — Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp. — offered him the position of assistant cafeteria manager at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

“It was kind of the natural thing to do,” Horton said. “I knew a lot of people (from Aramark).”

In 1971, Horton became a route salesman at PYA/Monarch, Greenville, S.C.

Horton became a produce buyer in the Charlotte, N.C., division of PYA/Monarch in 1976. Horton said one of his proudest moments at PYA/Monarch was when he formed a year-round deal for West Coast leaf items.

“That proved to be one of the best decisions that we made, and I was responsible for that,” Horton said.

Then, in 1989, Horton joined the Washington Apple Commission. He stayed there until the commission temporarily shut down in 2003.

Fox said he helped Horton find a job at Price Cold Storage in Selah, Wash.

When Rainier Fruit Co. started packing in the Price Cold Storage label, Horton joined Rainier as a regional marketing representative.