See related content: From the show floor: FPFC Southern California booth briefs.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — For the first time, the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council selected its current chairman as the recipient of the Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Award.

Apio exec receives FPFC awardMike Casazza, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc., was named the 2013 recipient of the award at the council’s Southern California Expo July 16.

Last year’s winner, Connie Stukenberg, president of CS Sales and Marketing for Results, Irvine, Calif., presented the award during the keynote breakfast at the Disneyland Hotel.

Stukenberg said Casazza has many assets that set him apart from the crowd.

“He exudes positivity, energy and a solid work ethic and makes it clear to everyone he encounters that he truly loves this industry and the people in it,” she said.

Casazza grew up in Modesto, Calif., and worked on family farms in the area. His formal career started on a South San Francisco wholesale market.

He joined the Long Beach, Calif., office of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce in 1991 and helped the company’s Fresh-cut pineapple business explode on the West Coast, she said. When he left Del Monte in 1999, he was vice president of North American Sales.

“He brought that same energy and drive to Apio, helping them grow into a leader in fresh-cut vegetable bags and trays, and a company that is known for its incredible customer service,” Stukenberg said.

He helped orchestrate Apio’s acquisition of Perrysburg, Ohio-based GreenLine Foods Inc., in 2012, bringing Apio into the value-added green beans business and giving the company a significant East Coast presence.

He has been an active FPFC member for decades, serving on a number of committees, and he was instrumental in the revamp of the Southern California Golf Tournament, helping it evolve into one of the council’s most successful events, she said.

Casazza is on the board of the Southeast Produce Council.

Bolstad was a founding FPFC member and the award recognizes distinguished leadership at the organization and the produce industry.

An estimated 1,500 store-level produce and floral employees attended the expo.

“Fresh Possibilities” was the theme of this year’s event, with an expanded format with 194 booths,

“This is a regional show that is geared toward linking store-level and retail employees with their vendors and people within the supply chain,” said expo committee chairman Jeffrey McLellan, office manager for QSI LLC, Los Angeles.

NFL quarterback and football analyst Joe Theismann was speaker at the awards breakfast.

He encouraged audience members to write down goals – personal, professional, spiritual and financial – and to “Get excited about life.”