PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association thanked a Florida retailer for its support of the state’s fruit.

On Sept. 29 at the association’s 66th convention, the group presented its Merchandiser of the Year Award to Tampa-based Sweetbay Supermarkets.

FFVA honors Sweetbay as merchandiser of the year

Doug Ohlemeier

Steve Williams (left), director of produce and floral for Sweetbay Supermarkets, Tampa, Fla., talks with Adam Lytch, grower development director of for eastern vegetables and melons for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., at the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s convention in Palm Beach, Fla., on Sept. 29. The FFVA honored Sweetbay as its Merchandiser of the Year.

Adam Lytch, grower development director for eastern vegetables and melons for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., in nominating Sweetbay, said the team headed by Steve Williams, Sweetbay’s director of produce and floral,  “really defines the word ‘merchandising.'”

Lytch lauded Williams’ work in promoting the state’s strawberries and developing peach crop. Despite successive freezes, Williams this year gambled and launched a strong promotion for Plant City strawberries.

Lytch noted one of Sweetbay’s Tampa stores erected a gigantic strawberry display. Viewable to customers upon entering the store, the display featured a helicopter to show how fast berries are transported from field to store.

“They go out of their way to promote Florida products,” Lytch said. “They have a lot of in-store promos and even have competitions between the stores.”

Lytch said 75% of the nominations the FFVA received for the award were for Williams and his team.

Williams said his store has a philosophy in promoting Florida produce.

“We tie it all in from the produce manager to store manager and include assistant produce managers and merchandisers and regional sales,” he said. “We have a full and complete team trying to achieve our goal.”

In other news from the convention, the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation awarded scholarships to two farmworker children.

The FFVA noted the quality of this year’s applicants who were from Immokalee and Plant City and had achieved high grade point averages.

A Sept. 29 silent auction benefits the foundation’s the George F. Sorn Scholarship fund that helps farmworker children attend college.