Tom Stenzel and Emanuel ( Photo courtesy Ashley Nickle )

TUCSON, Ariz. — Longtime industry leader Emanuel Lazopoulos received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Fresh Produce Association at the FreshStart Conference gala Jan. 15.

Lazopoulos, who retired last year from Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce, had been with the company since 2003. He played a significant role in expanding the company’s fresh-cut operations, its growth in the avocado business and its acquisition of Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing, among other accomplishments, according to United Fresh. Before his time with Del Monte, Lazopoulos also held roles of increasing responsibility for Dole, and later one he was one of three founders of NewStar Fresh Foods.

Throughout his career, Lazopoulos has been involved in industry leadership, including as chairman of the United Fresh board of directors. He also served on the Produce Marketing Association’s retail board and on the Produce for Better Health Foundation board, according to United Fresh.

Three people spoke about Lazopoulos before he accepted his award at the gala — Don Barnett, president and chief operating officer of Sun Basket; Danny Dumas, senior vice president of sales, marketing and product management for Del Monte; and Emanuel’s wife Laura.

Barnett spoke of Lazopoulos’ leadership and the difference it made for his companies.

“For too long leaders have been focused on the management side and haven’t focused on the leadership side, and if you’re somewhere down in the trenches and you hear, ‘maximize shareholder value,’ what do you do with that? That’s why we need leaders that are understanding, leaders that understand that the teams need to be led,” Barnett said. 

Dumas also commented on Lazopoulos’ ability to build strong, united teams in the workplace.

“His open-door management style, always taking the time to listen, advise, his openness to hearing different points of view and always being open for discussion, made us feel that we were all important in achieving a common goal,” Dumas said. “Emanuel’s ability to communicate with a team where he sometimes sought advice -- which was always followed by a thank you or an appreciation note individually — he always had that special touch that makes everyone feel important.”

Laura Lazopoulos spoke about her early memories of her husband’s career and how it shaped their lives.

She noted that, talking with people with whom Emanuel has worked over the years, it is clear he is the same person at work that he is at home.

“Since I first met him, he has never tried to portray himself as someone that he really isn’t,” Laura said. “His humor, integrity, love for learning new things and meeting people, and his strong presence are part of what make him so special. He gives good advice, he cooks us amazing meals, he always makes time to be with us and talk to us about our lives.”

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