Keith Zielonka, Food Lion
Keith Zielonka, Food Lion
Every month, Produce Retailer magazine features some of the best merchandisers, managers and clerks helping make produce the most sought-after department in grocery retail.   
Editor Pamela Riemenschneider interviewed winners of the 2016 Retail Produce Manager Awards, sponsored by Dole Food Co. and administered by the United Fresh Produce Association.
What do you love most about your job?
Wow. I have seen a lot of changes come as a 15-year associate with Food Lion. What I love most about my job is seeing how our customer service culture has changed with the introduction of the “Count on Me” program. It has helped both associates and customers. It empowers associates to do what’s right for the customer right there without having to make them wait for answers later.
What’s your biggest challenge as a retail produce manager?
I have pretty high standards for myself. I would say the challenge is trying to maintain my high standards every day and be consistent with providing freshness for our customers.
What has changed most in the produce department during your time in retail?
Food Lion has always been seen by our customers as a price leader. I would say we have seen positive changes in the quality of our produce, expansion of organic items and doing things to give our customer the best eating experience at their table once they take home our fresh produce. We have installed refrigerated tables so that our items stay fresher longer. The company is also investing more in associates so that we can educate our customers on various healthy ways to cook their fresh produce.
What’s your favorite fruit?
My favorite fruits are in-house fresh-cut pineapple core and honeydew. 
What do you think are the most important things we can do to raise fruit and vegetable consumption?
I think it is important for retailers to always be in stock with fresh items that are most important to our customers. I think it is also important that we educate our customers on items, and we need to always make sure that our fresh item displays are popping.