Web Editor’s note: This article is new, longer coverage of a story we first posted on May 16.

(May 20, 11:02 a.m.) CALGARY, Alberta — Tom Byttynen’s nine-year streak of winning nominations for The Packer’s Canadian Produce Man of the Year has ended.

The president of Calgary-based Thomas Fresh Inc. had a sneaking suspicion that he was the 2008 recipient early during Packer Editor Lance Jungmeyer’s presentation on May 16.

Not too many people have a “million-watt” flashlight or a toy rat in their office, he said.

“I was overwhelmed — in total shock,” Byttynen said.

Nominations for Byttynen cited his warm-hearted nature and strong sense of integrity.

His penchant for giving hugs also earned mention.

“Prospective customers are warned they should buy the produce in question, or else expect a hug,” Jungmeyer said.

The line of congratulators waiting to get a famous Byttynen hug after he was announced as the award-winner was long. It took at least 15 minutes for everyone to have a turn.

Business partner Roy Hinchey said Byttynen keeps the work environment joyful.

“You can be having a bad day at the office, with trucks running late or whatever, and he will jump in with something that will just make you giggle,” he said.

Byttynen started his career in the dairy industry in 1981.

In 1992, he joined Hikari Produce in Calgary as general manger, specializing in fresh-cut vegetables and fruit. By 1994, he was vice president and chief operating officer of Supreme Produce, Calgary.

He made a brief detour back to the dairy industry in 1996 before starting his own company, Thomas Fresh Inc., a grower-shipper, importer-exporter featuring specialty produce and custom packing, in 1997.

“He simply was not destined to be a milk man,” Jungmeyer said.

The company has three locations, an office and warehouse in Calgary, a full-service warehouse in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a newly-opened sister company in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Byttynen has served on numerous committees and boards in the industry. He is chairman of Canada’s Repack/Wholesale Food Safety Committee, which is developing standards and programs for middle-market operators.

He also has served as president of the Calgary Produce Marketing Association and has served on eight boards of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.

Thomas Fresh chief wins Man of the Year kudos
Lance Jungmeyer (left), Editor of The Packer, presents the Canadian Produce Man of the Year award to Tom Byttynen, president of Calgary-based Thomas Fresh Inc.