2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Michael Napolitano

Director of Organics
McDaniel & Chirico Worldwide
Fallbrook, CA

Age: 36
Hometown: Harrington Park, NJ
Hobbies: Sailing, Skiing
Motto in life: Always be prepared.

Napolitano grew up in a family with a long history in the produce industry, and started learning and working in the family’s New Jersey foodservice company, Samuel S. Napolitano Produce. Throughout his youth, he transitioned to various responsibilities, from being a delivery driver to managing the seasonal plum tomato and wine grape distribution. In 2010, he graduated from Manhattan College and immediately gained employment with another family-owned foodservice distributor, V.A. Tramontano & Son. In 2015, he transitioned into a sales role for tropical fruit importer HLB Specialties and moved to South Florida. By emphasizing a unique product line and focusing on program sales of both tropical/exotic fruits and organics, he was able to create new programs and help the company bring several new products to market. In 2018, he was promoted to sales manager and led a team of sales associates, while coordinating with the procurement and import teams.

In 2020, he was presented with the opportunity to join the development of a new branch of McDaniel & Chirico Worldwide, working from New Jersey, and focusing on sales and marketing while also leading the organic programs. He successfully developed new business, focusing on the retail sector and doubling his sales each year. He organizes product packing, knowing exactly what each customer requires and customizing each order. He is also an expert on the organic items McDaniel and Chirico handles. He has been instrumental in growing the once-seasonal organic lemon program into a full-year program.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

Learn something from everyone you meet in any role, and use those lessons to better yourself. You can’t control Mother Nature, so despite even rigorous planning, always have a backup plan!

Q: What is the one thing in your business you are most passionate about?

I believe organic produce is the future of the industry. People care for their own health and the health of the environment, so, with the right consumer education, organic produce will continue to flourish and grow.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?

Your purchases impact your health and the environment; choose produce that is in season and as local as possible (preferably organic). You may be surprised at the flavor and quality you find by shopping this way.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?

Focus on flavor and freshness above all else. Be more flexible with varietal offerings, as well as alternate sizes and grades.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

There’s a much more robust offering of new fruits and vegetables, as well as new varieties available on a larger scale than ever before. Organic produce has also seen tremendous growth and is now prevalent for most commodities.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

Growing organic programs has been both the most challenging and rewarding part of my career thus far.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

Learn from everyone you meet and help everyone you can. Strong relationships will be the cornerstone of your future success.