Roger Pepperl began his produce career working his way up from produce manager to buyer/merchandiser during 21 years with Meijer, Inc. He then joined Stemilt's team as marketing director in 2000. Roger's knowledge and experience as a retailer for one of the nation's largest grocery chains has served him well in his role at Stemilt. He understands that success is in the hands of the shopper first and foremost, and has made it a priority to tell the Stemilt story in order to engage with all shoppers, and especially the next generation, millennials.
The advent of new packaging and new proprietary varieties in the tree fruit world has been a huge focus for Roger over the past several years. He was the mastermind behind Stemilt’s line of kid-sized fruits, Lil Snappers™. Delivering convenience and quality in a package and targeting that to today's busy parents quickly led to increased category sales for both apples and pears. He also had the foresight to bring Sunkist Growers into the brand with their citrus products, creating a new level of cross-category merchandising.
Recognizing the fact that consumers want to know where their food is grown and the advantage Stemilt has in growing its pears in the Wenatchee and Entiat River Valleys, Roger recently helped Stemilt launch a new label for its pear program, called Rushing Rivers™ pears. This program benefits all the audiences Stemilt serves and is a classic example of Roger's innovative approach to creating marketing programs that work for produce. Piñata!® and SweeTango® apples are additional success stories of Roger's and Stemilt's. He led the introduction of the company's proprietary apple variety, Piñata, back in 2009. Marketing the variety in the middle of the winter with eye-catching, tropical themed cartons/displays and the flavor profile “classic apple flavor with a tropical twist” put this apple in shopping carts and created huge consumer demand. Pinata is now a variety that consumers are seeking out, and it appeared in more than 7,000 supermarkets in the U.S. alone last season.
“Roger’s contributions to the marketing and merchandising of fresh fruits and vegetables have advanced the industry significantly,” said United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel. “His innovative marketing programs, unique approach to merchandising and foresight to stay one step ahead of the curve are what set Roger apart from his peers. We’re proud to honor him with this FreshMKT Achievement Award.”