Melissa Athanasopulos
Melissa Athanasopulos

Melissa Athanasopulos, senior sales director of fresh-cut at Del Monte Fresh Produce NA, Coral Gables, Fla., has been on the produce industry radar of upcoming talents since winning Rookie of the Year honors with US Foodservice.

She later became the first woman to join her company’s “$2 million dollar club.” She maintained that honor for three straight years until she took a break from the professional world.

Athanasopulos started her career in her family’s restaurant business, where she learned the importance of loyalty.

“I have only worked for two companies in my professional career,” Athanasopulos said. “I am loyal, and I have found the right fit with Del Monte, and I hope to continue working for them.”

Athanasopulos has worked for Del Monte for 11 years, and she said she enjoys the diversity of her work.

“There is no typical day,” she said. “My main focus for the company is to increase sales but every day is different depending on what is going on in the produce world, what the weather is like, what season we are in, what we’re working on and who we’re communicating with.”

Athanasopulos works with Del Monte’s 10 fresh-cut operations across the U.S. and Canada and 12 distribution centers, in addition to regional and national customers, to ensure the right products are in the right locations and that the company is communicating effectively.

Kirk Teske, vice president of fresh-cut sales and operations for North America at Del Monte Fresh Produce, has known Athanasopulos since they were kids, growing up on the same street in Illinois.

“Melissa is very dedicated to her job, she enjoys her work, and she enjoys to work,” Teske said. “She puts such dedication into what she does, she goes the extra mile, doesn’t think about a 9-to-5 role but does what’s necessary.”

Athanasopulos accepts any challenge that comes her way and has tried to remember the lessons she’s learned and the advice she’s been given throughout her career.

“I’ve learned to be honest, trust your instincts and never get too comfortable,” Athanasopulos said.

Someone once told her to treat others like she wanted to be treated, so she applies that to her personal and professional life.

“I would never ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself,” Athanasopulos said.

Athanasopulos’ favorite venture yet is a taste program for children.

“It’s all about educating our youth,” she said.

This program is a part of a classroom teaching curriculum where children learn fun facts about fruits and vegetables and taste a fruit or vegetable that they may have not had the opportunity to try before.

Athanasopulos is enjoying the moment but looking toward the future.

“I would like to further educate children about the benefits of produce because I feel that everyone needs to do their part by simply getting produce in front of children and showing them that eating right can be fun and that it can taste good,” Athanasopulos said.

“Melissa is a leader,” Teske said. “She has a very bright future at Del Monte, and I expect her to be a leader with the company for years to come.”