(July 2) LENEXA, Kan. — Retail produce managers represent the entire industry to the consumer on a daily basis.

To honor top produce managers’ hard work, Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc., is sponsoring the 2008 Produce Manager Awards Program, marking Ready Pac’s fourth-consecutive sponsorship, said Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., at The Packer’s annual meeting June 22 in Lenexa.

The need to continue driving traffic to the produce department — a responsibility of the retail produce manager — prompted Ready Pac’s decision to support the program once again, said Ali Leon, Ready Pac’s director of fruit, vegetables and corporate communication.

Since United introduced the awards in 2005, the program has served as means of motivation for produce managers and also has shed light on the importance of their role, said Randy Scott, produce category manager of Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion LLC, which has more than 1,200 stores.

“It’s definitely beneficial,” Scott said. “For a produce manager, to get recognized nationally is pretty big. It gives them perspective of what’s going on in the produce industry and how what they do day-to-day impacts the industry.”

The 20 selected winners — and four grand prize winners — will be announced at the 2008 United Fresh Las Vegas Show, which is scheduled for May 4-7, Stenzel said.