Mayda Sotomayor receives The Packer’s 2018 Produce Woman of the Year award from Greg Johnson, editor of The Packer, at the opening breakfast of the United Fresh Produce Association's 2018 expo.
( The Packer staff )

CHICAGO — Mayda Sotomayor is The Packer’s 2018 Produce Woman of the Year.

Sotomayor, CEO of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet and executive in parent company Greenyard Group, was presented the award by Greg Johnson, editor of The Packer, at the opening general session June 26 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s 2018 expo.

Johnson said Sotomayor’s personal and business skills are formidable.

“She leads with calm strength. She mentors and cares for people,” Johnson said. “She’s a very smart businesswoman. She’s not afraid to take risks. She sees all sides of a deal. And she’s a joy to be around.”

Sotomayor came to the U.S. from Cuba as a teenager and earned a business degree in Miami.

She started in produce working in the citrus industry. In 2000, Sotomayor joined Seald Sweet and began an import program. After several promotions, Sotomayor became CEO in 2010.

During those years, she helped form and oversee a logistics division and expanded domestic and imports beyond citrus to include grapes, apples, pears, squash, cucumbers and berries.

Johnson said Sotomayor is known for promoting a family culture at Seald Sweet.

Johnson said her peers — inside and outside the company – note her amazing ability to connect with produce growers.

One said “she always makes sure growers feel comfortable because this is their livelihood.”

Another said being bilingual certainly helps, and creates a comfort zone for suppliers.

Sotomayor has also collaborated with her peers in leadership on the boards of both United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association, and countless other volunteer roles.

Hein Deprez, CEO of the Greenyard Group, congratulated Sotomayor for her efforts, enthusiasm and vision for the company.

“It is a difficult business but she is always enthusiastic.”

“I’m so honored and so thankful,” Sotomayor said when receiving the award from Johnson. “Gratitude overwhelms me right now.”