LAS VEGAS — The Packer’s honoree at the 2009 United Fresh Produce Association annual conference couldn’t be handled with a “Man of the Year” designation.
A five-decade-plus career of achievements and milestones makes Al Vangelos a Produce Man for All Seasons.
The Packer editor Greg Johnson bestowed the award on Vangelos, 75, during the general breakfast session at the United Fresh conference April 22 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. It was the first time since 1997 that The Packer named a Produce Man for All Seasons.
“I’ve sat in this audience many years watching this award given out to others,” Vangelos said as he accepted his award in front of a crowd of 700. “I never thought it’d be me.”
In his speech introducing Vangelos, Johnson summed up Vangelos’ career when he said, “There have been many produce industry icons over the years, even those who have led major associations and have led more than one giant in a given commodity.
“But to be called on to lead so many different kinds of companies is exceedingly rare.”
Today, Vangelos is chief executive officer at Sun World International, a position he’s held since last summer after serving on the company’s board of managers and as interim chief executive officer. But the road to get there has been as varied and vast as anyone in the produce industry.
His history in the fresh produce industry began back in 1956 when Vangelos began working at the Birds Eye division of General Foods. In 1962, he joined Dole, a company in which he eventually would serve two stints until the mid-1980s.
Beginning in 1986, he took over Calavo Growers in California and began what would become a trend throughout the rest of his career — he took what was a cooperative and turned it into a profit-making business.