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United’s New Board Structure:
Is It A Brave New World
Or Déjà vu All Over Again?

United Fresh is building steam as it prepares to open its convention in Las Vegas. Simultaneously it announced a new volunteer leadership structure and new board leadership.

The new structure is a substantial change:


The Board of Directors of the United Fresh Produce Association has voted to implement a new organizational structure for its volunteer leadership, to be implemented following this year’s annual convention May 4-7 in Las Vegas. The new structure will consist of four horizontal boards representing different market segments of the produce supply chain, which in turn will roll up into a consolidated overall Board of Directors representing the association’s membership.

“As our Board engaged in strategic planning over the past six months, it was clear that one of our key strengths as an organization is our total produce supply chain representation, and our ability to bring all segments of the supply chain together in balanced partnership for the good of the industry,” said United Fresh Chairman of the Board Emanuel Lazopoulos, Del Monte Fresh Produce. “While our Board clearly sees that strength in our internal deliberations, we also realized that we had the opportunity to be more transparent and inclusive in representing the needs of specific segments of the broad produce industry. This new structure will be both transparent and inclusive, as every company in the industry will know where companies like themselves fit within United’s structure, and every segment of the industry will have a fair voice in proportion to their member representation,” he said.

United Fresh will establish four new supply chain market segment boards, each consisting of from 15-20 representatives predominately representing companies in those business sectors. Associate member suppliers and allied association members that work closely with one market segment or another will also be permitted to serve on each board.

  • Grower-Shipper Board
  • Wholesale-Distributor Board
  • Fresh-Cut Processor Board
  • Retail-Foodservice Board

These boards will be empowered to identify, discuss and advance issues of importance within each sector in order to ensure that United Fresh is meeting their business needs, addressing critical issues, and implementing programs that deliver member value to each market segment. The chairman and vice chairman of each Board will fill an automatic seat on the association’s consolidated Board of Directors, ensuring direct representation of each market segment’s needs in all Board considerations. Members of each market segment board will be nominated by the association’s Nominating Committee, and will be formally elected by the membership to serve two-year terms.

In addition, United Fresh will formalize operations of four Advisory Councils, which serve to gather expertise and counsel in specific issue areas from across the entire membership. These include:

  • Government Relations Council (currently operating)
  • Food Safety & Technology Council (currently operating)
  • Global Advisory Council (recently formed in January; second meeting in Las Vegas)
  • Transportation & Logistics Council (to be formed)

Advisory councils will be appointed by the Chairman of the Board, and provide service as their expertise and time commitment allows. The chairman of each advisory council will also fill an automatic seat on the consolidated Board of Directors, ensuring that their council’s specific expert judgment is shared with the full Board in each meeting.

Members filling the 12 automatic Board seats outlined above will serve alongside four officers, and 25 at-large members chosen to proportionately represent the association’s total membership.

“In summary, these changes will reinforce for the entire industry United Fresh’s unique role in bringing together the total produce supply chain. We believe that addressing industrywide needs today demands a transparent candid dialogue across industry segments that can only be achieved with balanced and proportional representation of the industry. In addition, the structure of expert advisory councils allows for widespread member expertise in areas such as food safety, government affairs, transportation logistics and global issues to be brought to every Board meeting. United Fresh is committed to this level of transparency and inclusiveness in addressing industry issues,” Lazopoulos said.

Industry leaders nominated to serve as chairmen and vice chairmen of the new boards and councils, as well as nominees for open at-large seats, will be announced separately, and will be introduced at the upcoming annual meeting and convention. Following that event, volunteers will be sought for potential nominees to each market segment board.

“As we begin to implement this new structure, United Fresh also owes a great thank you to members who have served on the Business Development Council the past three years, and particularly its chairman Mike Kemp of Save-A-Lot,” said Lazopoulos. “Work previously done by this council will now be channeled into the new market segment boards to ensure that we’re specifically addressing each business segment’s needs. We thank Mike and the Business Development Council team for their work developing our new Cornell Executive Development Program and the Product Recall/Crisis Management course we now are offering around the country. We look forward to working with many of these leaders as members of the new market segment boards,” he said.

The structure may be new, but the new Board leadership is composed of tested veterans:

Tom Lovelace to Assume Chairmanship;
Jim Lemke Nominated to Serve as Chairman-Elect

Chairman of the Board Development Committee Nick Tompkins, Apio, Inc., has announced the slate of new officers and directors nominated to serve on the United Fresh Produce Association Board of Directors, effective at its May 3, 2008 meeting.

Ascending to Chairman of the Board is Tom Lovelace, Executive Vice President, McEntire Produce, Columbia, SC. Lovelace has over 30 years experience in the fresh-cut produce and quick service restaurant industries, and now serves as Executive Vice President of McEntire Produce, a fresh-cut processor, tomato re-packer and vegetable wholesaler. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Performance Food Group and Chairman/CEO of Fresh Express from 1995 to 2004. During that time of rapid consolidation, PFG acquired Dixon Tom-a-toe, Redi-Cut Foods and Fresh Express. Prior to joining PFG in 1995, Lovelace spent nine years with Coronet Foods involved in both its fresh-cut processing operations and its bulk iceberg growing/shipping business in Salinas. He began his career with McDonald’s Corporation, spending 16 years with the company in an operations and supply chain management capacity.

Nominated as Chairman-Elect is Jim Lemke, Senior Vice President, C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., Eden Prairie, MN. Lemke oversees C.H. Robinson’s produce sales and marketing operations, as well as refrigerated transportation services. He previously served as vice president, produce, and as manager of C.H. Robinson’s Corporate Procurement and Distribution Services division. Jim joined the company in 1989 after earning a B.A. degree in International Relations from the University of Minnesota. Jim has experience working in transportation, logistics, produce commodity sales and account management for the company’s retail, wholesale and foodservice customers. He currently serves on the board of the Produce for Better Health Foundation and is heavily involved with industry initiatives such as the Produce Traceability Initiative.

In addition, Michael Cavallero, President, North America Tropical Fresh Fruit of Dole Food Company is nominated to a two-year term serving as Secretary-Treasurer. Cavallero previously served on the United Fresh Board from 1996-2000.
Current Chairman, Emanuel Lazopoulos, Senior Vice President, N.A. Sales & Product Management for Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., in Coral Gables, FL, will move into the office of Immediate Past Chairman, and remain on the Board and the Executive Committee.

As also announced today, the Board of Directors of the Association has voted to implement a new organizational structure for its volunteer leadership. The new structure will consist of four horizontal boards representing different market segments of the produce supply chain and four expert councils in cross-cutting issue areas. Leaders of these boards and councils will join together with at-large directors chosen proportionally to represent United Fresh’s overall membership in forming a consolidated overall Board of Directors.

The following industry leaders have been nominated to serve as the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the new Supply Chain Boards, beginning May 2008:

Grower-Shipper Board:

  • Al Vangelos, Chairman
    Sun World International, LLC, Bakersfield, CA
  • Fred Williamson, Vice Chairman
    Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, CA

Fresh-Cut Processor Board

  • Steffanie Smith, Chairman
    River Point Farms, LLC, Hermiston, OR
  • Ron Midyett, Vice Chairman
    Apio, Inc., Guadalupe, CA

Wholesale-Distributor Board

  • Matthew D’Arrigo, Chairman
    D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York, Bronx, NY
  • Brendan Comito, Vice Chairman
    Capital City Fruit Company, Inc., Norwalk, IA

Retail-Foodservice Board

  • Reggie Griffin, Chairman
    The Kroger Company, Cincinnati, OH
  • Mitch Smith, Vice Chairman
    McDonald’s Corporation, Nampa, ID

The following industry leaders have been nominated to serve as the Chairmen of the United Fresh Councils, beginning May 2008:

Global Advisory Council

  • David Barney, Chairman
    Bakkavor, Peterborough, UK

Government Relations Council

  • Mike Wootton, Chairman
    Sunkist Growers, Sherman Oaks, CA

Transportation & Logistics Council

  • David Dever, Chairman
    Pandol Bros., Inc., Delano, CA

Food Safety & Technology Council

  • Barry Eisenberg Ph.D., Chairman
    River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC, Salinas, CA

The following industry leaders have been nominated to serve as new at-large members of the United Fresh Board for a two-year term beginning May 2008:

  • Mike Celani, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Ready Pac Produce, Irwindale, CA
  • Tony DiMare, Vice President, DiMare Company, Ruskin, FL
  • Roger Harkrider, Director of Produce, H-E-B, San Antonio, TX
  • Brent Harrison, President, Al Harrison Co. Distributors, Nogales, AZ
  • Michael Martin, Vice President of Sales, Rio Queen, Inc., Mission, TX
  • Phillip Muir, President & CEO, Muir Copper Canyon Farms, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Mark Murai, President, California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, CA
  • Doug Riley, Assistant Vice President, Produce Operations, Hy-Vee, Inc., West Des Moines, IA
  • Geoff White, Vice President, Corporate Produce, Safeway, Inc., Pleasanton, CA

The following current Board Members will continue service on the Board: Nelia Alamo, Gills Onions; Ron Anderson, Spartan Stores, Inc.; Barry Bedwell, California Grape & Tree Fruit League; Matthew Caito, Imagination Farms; Peter John Condakes, Peter Condakes Company, Inc.; Pete Donlon, Earthbound Farm; Charles Hall, Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association; Brian Kocher, Chiquita Brands International; Robin Poynton, One Harvest; Ashley Rawl, Walter P. Rawl & Sons, Inc.; John Shelford, Shelford Consulting; Vic Smith, Fresh Innovations, LLC; Alan Temple, B&W Quality Growers, Inc.; Alessandro Turatti, Turatti Srl,; Rick Urschel, Urschel Laboratories; and Timothy Vaux, Vaux Group, Inc.

“In total, the slate of nominees for our new boards, councils and at-large seats, together with our returning Board members and new officers, makes this a tremendously diverse and skilled set of leaders to represent our entire industry and guide our association in the year ahead,” said Nominating Committee Chairman Tompkins.

Board Members who will complete their terms of service at the May convention include: Rick Antle, Tanimura & Antle; Charles Ciruli, Ciruli Brothers/Amex Distributing Co., Inc.; Alan Heinzen, Heinzen Manufacturing International; Mark Hilton, Harris Teeter Supermarkets; Diane Huntsinger-Carson, Crunch Pak LLC; Bruce Knobeloch, River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC; Lawrence Kern, Kern Associates; Maureen Marshall, Torrey Farms, Inc.; Mark Miller, Fresh From Texas/Energy Sprouts, Inc.; Walter Strickland, Strickland Produce, Inc.; Jay Taylor, Taylor & Fulton, Inc.; Nick Tompkins, Apio, Inc., Mike Kemp, Save-A-Lot, Chairman of the Business Development Council; and Walter Ram, The Giumarra Companies, Co-Chairman of the Food Safety & Technology Council.

“I’d like to personally thank Nick Tompkins and the Board Development Committee for their work this year in nominating an outstanding individual in Jim Lemke to serve as Chairman-Elect, as well as a slate of great new Board members and Council and Supply Chain Board Chairmen,” said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel.

“We recognize that the strength of our association comes from strong representation of our membership across the total supply chain, bringing together an exceptional group of industry leaders to serve our industry. I’d also like to thank those leaders who are concluding their service at this meeting. We greatly appreciate the time and resources they have given to serve our industry,” he said.

The Pundit once ran a strategic planning process for United, and so we know the stresses and strains that a new structure such as this is trying to contain.

On the one hand, the very essence of United’s name is that it seeks to find common ground in the industry; on the other hand, each industry segment has its own interests and its own agenda.

The positive of separate boards for each sector of the supply chain is that the members really come to feel represented. There is a body that will continuously bring to the surface the concerns of each segment of the supply chain. The risk of separate boards for each part of the supply chain is that having surfaced each segment’s concerns and agendas, it is difficult to put that genie back in the bottle and make sure everyone works together.

PMA has long been driven by two separate boards named after segments of the industry: The Retail Board and The Foodservice Board. What has made these boards powerful tools, though, is that although each is chaired by a member of the respective business class — this year Mikel R. Weber of Golden Corral Corporation is Chairman of PMA’s Foodservice Board, and Michael O’Brien of Schnuck Markets is Chairman of PMA’s Retail Board — the actual membership of the boards contains the complete supply chain. In fact, retailers are not even a majority on the retail board, nor are foodservice operators a majority on the foodservice board.

As such, PMA’s organizational structure tends to quickly define those areas on which industry cooperation and consensus is possible and leads to work on those areas.

United’s efforts are to be admired because PMA tends to be silent on a fair number of issues because there is no industry consensus … and no likelihood of achieving one. So setting up supply chain boards will bring visibility to issues and the whole industry can often benefit from this.

Yet… such clarity can create trouble within an association. Just a little while ago, we ran a piece regarding grape shatter allowances on grapes sold in bags or clamshells and Matthew D’Arrigo of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York happened to volunteer to be interviewed for that piece. He expressed his strong belief, which is almost unanimously held among wholesalers, that this plan to increase shatter allowances is a very bad one. We note the fact that Matthew is the new Chairman of United’s new Wholesale-Distributor Board.

We have known Matthew for a very long time. Our respect for him, his family and his father is immense. We have not the slightest doubt he will do all he can to help the industry.

Yet we also notice that the Chairman of the Grower-Shipper Board is Al Vangelos of Sun World International. We wrote about Al accepting this assignment here. Now we have known Al a long time as well. In fact we worked closely with him way back in 1991 when Al was Chairman of United. Now Sun World is a major grower-shipper of grapes and, although we haven’t asked him, it is very possible

Al would go along with the position of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League proposing to increase the shatter allowance on grapes.

Once again, we have nothing but respect for Al Vangelos and have not the slightest doubt that he will do all in his power to help the industry.

Yet, even with two stellar leaders yearning to help the industry, in this example, the Wholesale-Distributor Board may send a recommendation to the main board that United Fresh may oppose.

Forgetting for a moment the substance of the issue, the problem is that the United Fresh main board will have a big challenge in acting without alienating a big part of the membership.

To some extent, this is a little bit of déjà vue all over again. United once had a Terminal Market Division; United once had a Retail Division. United had other industry segmented divisions, and, back then at least, it led to groups such as NAPAR — the National Association of Perishable Agricultural Receivers — going independent because the main United board wouldn’t or couldn’t support the initiatives of the industry segmented boards.

Of course, that was then and this is now, and there is no guarantee that past is prologue. Obviously very smart industry members have worked long and hard to revise United’s structure. We owe them the chance to see how they make it work. We wish all the new board members and leadership of United Fresh God Speed in their endeavors.

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