2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Gabriela Chavez

Age: 34

Associate Category Manager
Topco Associates
Elk Grove Village, IL

Hometown: Bakersfield, CA
Hobbies: Reading, Writing, Yoga, Golfing, Traveling, Concerts, Sporting Events
Family/Community: Single, 3 children, Brave Woman’s Conference, JJ’s Legacy
Motto in life: “Balance, peace and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them.” — Thomas Kinkade

With close to 14 years of industry experience, Chavez is known for her dedication and drive for produce She has consistently exhibited success in working with some of the top retailers in the U.S. by providing market conditions, market pricing, coordinating the needs of partners and logistically making sure product is delivered in a timely fashion. She began in the industry in 2009 as sales assistant at Stevco, a prominent grape supplier in the California Central Valley and moved in 2011 to work with Five Diamond, where she was responsible for procuring multiple commodities including grapes, stone fruit, apples, pears, and cherries for retailers in Central America and Mexico.

In 2016, she moved to Harold Crawford Companies and spent the next four years procuring apples, pears, cherries, and mangos for the HEB Houston and Central Market DCs. In 2020, she began working at Topco Associates as category specialist out of a Visalia, CA, office. She was quickly promoted to senior category analyst, making her the fastest-promoted Topco associate during her first year.

In 2022, she was promoted to her current position at Topco where she is responsible for managing the grape and stone fruit categories, which represent over $80 million in annual member purchases. Most recently, she has been instrumental in launching a new brand “Basket and Bushel” for her categories.

Q: What attracted you to produce?
A huge influence was the powerhouse that women’s presence brings to this industry. During my first job at Stevco, I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Burlinguette, who was a buyer at Costco. I also had the pleasure of working with Kristen Snyder, a buyer at HEB. The presence of these and other such women inspired me and served as huge catalyst to my growth and drive to excel in the produce industry.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
The successful launch of Topco’s latest private label, Basket & Bushel grapes. I started working on the launch of the latest venture during the spring of 2022 for a targeted launch date of July 2022. Launching a private brand can be a long process and can typically take up to a year, if not more. We were able to accomplish the launch within a three-month span. Aligning ourselves with four premier California, Chilean, Peruvian and Mexico growers, we successfully launched this program and it’s offered year-round from every growing region. These Basket & Bushel grapes represent an enormous sales opportunity for Topco to provide a completely unique, private label solution that complements the already successful Basket & Bushel packaged vegetable line, fresh berries, tomatoes and potatoes. The assortment is truly a game changer in the market.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Proactively seek education and training in all seminars and software, and maintain an adaptive work ethic. This industry is constantly changing, and we need to adapt and stay involved and educated on the latest marketing trends to meet retail and consumer needs.