Produce industry veteran John Lazopoulos Jr. takes on new role with World Fresh Produce

On Dec. 5, World Fresh Produce Inc., headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ, announced that John Lazopoulos Jr., a produce industry veteran, had joined the leading grower, importer and shipper as vice president of operations.JohnLazopoulos-Jr.-newly-appointed-vice-president-of-operations-for-World-Fresh-Produce-LLC

Lazopoulos started his nearly 40-year career in the fresh produce industry when he was still studying to earn his bachelor's degree in agriculture economics/agricultural business management — a double degree — from the University of Delaware — he graduated in 1975.

But before then, in 1973, a family member introduced Lazopoulos to Joe Procacci of Procacci Bros. in Philadelphia.

“I worked for Procacci for two years before moving on to Superior Farms/Tenneco West in Bakersfield, CA, where I served as regional manager/sales coordinator,” said Lazopoulos. “From 1982 to 1990 I served as president of Punelli-Lazopoulos, also in Bakersfield, which I cofounded.”

By then, Lazopoulos had already garnered a strong reputation for his high level of integrity, ethics, organizational skills, achievements, credibility and warm and affectionate personality.

In 1990 he was hired by David Oppenheimer & Co., where he served as general manager for eastern North America.

“My responsibilities there included sales, marketing, operations, quality control and administration,” explained Lazopoulos.

“In 1995 I accepted the position of general manager of Albert’s Organics/Earthstar Organics, a leading distributor or organically grown fresh produce and perishable items servicing 7,000 stores,” he continued.

While at Oppenheimer, Lazopoulos oversaw a 400 percent growth in sales. At Albert’s Organics, he oversaw the entire corporation’s more than $5.2 million in sales while maintaining market leadership through aggressive market penetration and development. He also formulated the company with new divisions: the organic grower, shipper and marketing division and the wholesale distribution of organic products based in Florida.

In 2000, with 25 years of experience working in fresh produce, he joined Global Pacific Produce International, also in Henderson, as director of sales and marketing. While there he was responsible for in excess of 3.5 million packages of grapes and deciduous fruit. He also oversaw the entire import and export programs.

He left there in 2004, and for the next couple of years Lazopoulos worked as director of sales and marketing for a leading importer of Italian produce.

In 2006, he moved on to DNE World Fruit Sales headquartered in Fort Pierce, FL, then one of the largest grower-shippers and fresh fruit importers of citrus and other produce items.

“I served as the director of imports for DNE,” noted Lazopoulos. “When Wonderful Citrus bought out DNE in 2017, I left the company and moved on to Andean Sun Produce, which is marketed under the Gold Cup Fresh name, as vice president of sales and marketing.”

While there, his responsibilities included sales, liquidations, operations, quality control and management of the entire import program encompassing over 4 million packages of imported fresh produce.

Throughout his nearly four decades in the industry, Lazopoulos forged and maintained strong relationships. His accolades include complimentary reference letters from Kevin J. Carroll, procurement director for DNE-Wonderful Citrus, who wrote that he feels honored to have worked with a man of John Lazopoulos’ caliber.

Greg Sheldon, controller for David Oppenheimer & Co., wrote that Lazopoulos was the glue that held the company’s East Coast office together, and that he had one of its strongest allies in Lazopoulos’ presence.

Lazopoulos took several months off after leaving Gold Cup Fresh in early 2019 to consider the many offers that were coming his way. He decided to join World Fresh Produce’s president and owner, Michel Matouk, to put his experience to work for the company. He started his new position on Dec. 1. He said he had good reasons for his decision.

“I’ve known Michel for a couple of years, and we’ve stayed in contact,” said Lazopoulos. “World Fresh is a grower, packer and shipper covering all facets of the business, with a strong dominance in citrus programs to the eastern U.S. and eastern Canada. Our fresh produce items are grown on our own farms, as well as long lasting grower-partnerships in Morocco, Spain, Israel, South Africa, Chile, Peru and Australia. We are well-received in multiple retailers in the U.S., as well as in Canada.”

He added that World Fresh Produce is operated by close-knit and strongly dedicated family members.

“It is a young company, and it’s doing things right. It was a certain gut feeling that we mutually shared,” he pointed out. “I look forward to doing whatever I can to see this company reach new heights in every possible way.”

The company’s competitive edge reflects Lazopoulos’ well-known passion, perseverance and the ability to deliver the finest in quality fruit.

“With the founding family’s and my many years of experience, we know what it takes to make our customers successful,” he added.

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