NEW ORLEANS — Five retail produce manager award recipients went home from United Fresh 2011 with more than a plaque and memories.

At the annual Retail Produce Manager Awards banquet held May 4, David Schoch of Bel Air Market, Terry Blackburn of Hy-Vee Inc., David Dozier of GFF Foods, Jennifer Smith of Camp Pendleton Commissary and Ron Potter of Food City took home the $1,000 grand prizes.

Regardless of whether or not they take home the cash prize, the annual program is a life-changing event, said Mark Walden, vice president of produce category management for Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co.

Walden attended the awards in support of two of his produce managers, Jake Foster of Athens, Texas, and Brad Lange of Shreveport, La.

“We’ve been participating in the program since its inception seven years ago,” Walden said. “This is a career-changing event.”

Walden said managers he’s had recognized by the program get a bigger grasp of the industry.

“They get back to their stores with a greater respect for the business,” he said.

Tom Stenzel, president of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said there were more than 250 nominations for the program this year, of which 25 winners were chosen.

Related story: Retail produce managers share their secrets at United Fresh 2011. 

Five win produce manager award grand prizes