(July 7) Apparently having finished the tasks he was hired to accomplish, Larry Kern is heading into retirement.

Kern said July 7 he was stepping down as president and chief executive officer of Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Produce Inc., a little more than two years into the job.

Ready Pac, a bagged salad and fresh-cut vegetable shipper, said company founder and chairman Dennis Gertmenian would take over Kern’s responsibilities with the assistance of Jack Davis, chairman of the firm’s executive committee.

Kern had been with Ready Pac since April 2004, coming over from Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Food Co., to fill the CEO post that Gertmenian had for 35 years.

Kern left Dole in February 2004.

Ready Pac has nearly completed a project involving plant revitalization and consolidation that began late in 2005 under Kern’s direction.

“Larry has reshaped our business model and set the stage for dramatic profitable growth for Ready Pac, and I want to sincerely thank him for his contributions these past two years,” Gertmenian said in a news release.

In 2005, Ready Pac hired several new executives — including some from Dole — and began to revamp its facilities, in order to rev up production of new products. The company closed some existing production plants and opted to consolidate operations into four larger plants in Irwindale; Jackson, Ga.; Plymouth, Ind.; and Florence, N.J.

Neither Kern nor Gertmenian was available for comment July 7.

Ready Pac rolled out several new products under Kern’s leadership, including the recently introduced Bistro to Go salad entree, a baby leaf spinach line, microwaveable vegetable products and single-serve fruits and vegetables targeted at children.

Ready Pac had intensified its push in the value-added segment under Kern’s direction. In August 2004, four months after hiring Kern, Ready Pac entered into an agreement with Salinas, Calif.-based bagged salad company Tanimura & Antle Inc. to combine that firm’s Salad Time value-added business with that of Ready Pac.

Kern joined Dole’s Salinas-based Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. in 1993, leaving his position as president in December 1999 to become president and chief operating officer of Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc. He came back to Dole Fresh Vegetables as president in February 2000, moving up to president and chief operating officer of Dole Food several months later.

During his eight-year tenure leading Dole’s fresh vegetable program, Kern is credited with having doubled sales and having increased the bagged salad portion of company revenues from 9% to more than 50%.

Kern also brought some ideas to his chairmanship of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association in 2004-05. In that position, Kern developed United’s Retail Produce Manager Award, first handed out to 12 winners at the 2005 United convention in Chicago.

Kern steps down from Ready Pac