Top Banana, LLC
Hometown: Northport, NY
Hobbies: Traveling, Trying new restaurants
Motto in life: There is a solution to every problem.
Barabino came to the produce industry after working with Ernst & Young as a CPA in its assurance practice, earning two promotions in just three years. In March 2020, he joined Top Banana as a vice president of strategy and operations, responsible for creating and managing growth across the organization. Since joining Top Banana, he has helped the organization with an ERP transformation and a ripening expansion initiative. For the ERP system, he led the implementation and transition of the sales, warehouse and accounting teams to the company’s new ERP system (Famous Software). For the ripening expansion, he participated in the real estate purchase, construction and operation of six Thermal Technologies’ ripening rooms and 15,000 square feet of three-zone cold storage. This initiative increased ripening capacity by 80% and improved volume buying efficiencies.
Currently, he is working on developing new domestic and international programs to better serve current and future customers. In each of his three years since joining the firm, he has hit all target metrics. He has also been featured in a number of media, including Fox, NBC, Eater, Bloomberg, and Good Day New York. Barabino is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a degree in food marketing and accounting.
Q: What attracted you to the produce industry?
My favorite thing about working in the produce industry is working closely with family. There is a deep sense of shared purpose and commitment to the business when working with family members. This has led to a strong sense of unity and an ability to weather the ups and downs of the industry with greater resilience. Without my father-in-law, Joe Palumbo, guiding me on the transition to produce, none of the above accomplishments would be possible.
Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
The importance of building relationships and networking within the industry. The produce industry is a small world, and it’s important to get to know people and build a reputation for yourself.
Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Managing risk. The produce industry is affected by a wide range of factors, including weather, market fluctuations, and supply chain issues. Learning to anticipate and manage these risks was a critical skill.
Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?
I think retailers can benefit tremendously from creating a personalized experience. For example, offer customers a personalized experience by creating a “produce expert” as a service level in-store, where a knowledgeable staff member can guide customers through the produce section, suggest new items to try, and provide cooking or recipe ideas. Secondly, incorporate technology into the store. Digital signage, QR codes or augmented reality on the PLU stickers can easily provide customers with information on the nutritional benefits of produce items, recipe ideas and cooking tips. Finally, depending on market, a store may collaborate with local farmers. This would involve bringing in a unique and locally grown produce farmer to the store, and hosting special events or promotions to showcase these items.