Progressive Produce V.P. honoredANAHEIM, Calif. — Jack Gyben, vice president and partner at Progressive Produce Corp., Commerce, Calif., joined the ranks of an elite group of California produce industry professionals July 19 when he received the 2011 Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Award.

La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council presents the award annually during its Southern California Expo and recognizes distinguished leadership within the organization as well as the produce industry.

In presenting this year’s award, 2009 award-winner Bill Laliberte, president of WJL Distributors Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., lauded Gyben as a “dedicated supporter of the FPFC” as well as a dedicated family man.

Gyben has nearly 15 years experience in the food industry and served with several major firms, including Proctor & Gamble, ConAgra and Hunt Wesson.

“Our industry benefited when he moved into fresh produce as vice president of sales and marketing at Paramount Farms,” Laliberte said.

“His accomplishments there paved the way for his next career move, and as executive vice president of sales and marketing at Fresh Gourmet, he doubled the brand’s crouton business and developed their sales, broker and trade programs,” he said.

Gyben joined Progressive Produce as vice president of sales and marketing and was promoted to vice president of marketing and sales development.

“He has been an integral part of Progressive’s growth and was part of the management team that purchased Progressive Produce from Chiquita in 2003,” Laliberte said.

Gyben has served on many FPFC committees and was chairman of the board in 2006.

He also supports the industry through the Produce Marketing Association’s Foundation for Industry Talent and is an active supporter of the City of Hope cancer research center and hospital in Duarte, Calif.

Basketball Hall-of-Famer and Emmy-winning broadcaster Bill Walton was keynote speaker at the awards breakfast.

Walton, who underwent 36 orthopedic surgeries, spoke about overcoming adversity, and he advised produce and floral workers to emulate the basketball standouts who “who lived and played with purpose and passion.”

Once again, the expo was a sellout, with 164 booths representing more than 250 companies, said FPFC president Carissa Mace. More than 1,200 people, mostly store-level produce and floral workers, turned out for the event.

This year’s expo featured a larger number of school district foodservice buyers than usual, thanks to the trend toward expanding the presence of fresh produce on school menus, she said.

One of the highlights of the event is the Produce 101 competition, in which produce employees take their best guess at identifying unique and unusual produce items.

This year’s first- and second-place winners are with Commerce, Calif.-based Gelson’s/Mayfair markets. Thomas Wong, assistant produce manager at the chain’s Tarzana store, earned first place, and John Carriger, produce manager at the Santa Barbara store, came in second.

Expo committee chairman Brian Cook, sales manager at San Miguel Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., said the expo provides produce managers and buyers with an opportunity to interact in a relaxed environment.

“It allows (vendors) to show their products and educate produce managers so they can educate their consumers about the products they are carrying,” he said.