Produce and Floral Procurement Manager
Albertsons Companies: Boise, ID

Years in Produce:

Age: 34

Personal Information:

Married; Three children

Hobbies: Football; cooking; spending time with family

Motto in life: Family first, the rest will follow

Work History: In 17 years, Foster has worked his way up from a retail produce clerk to senior buyer for Albertsons. He is known for his outstanding dedication to the business and for his unwavering commitment to get the job done regardless of time of day. Foster began working for Albertsons as a retail produce clerk in 2001. After graduating from the University of Oregon, he was promoted to produce department specialist for Albertsons in 2008 (basically an assistant buyer role in procurement). He then took on a store merchandising role for Albertsons as a produce manager as well as grocery manager during Albertsons centralization period and worked as a merchandiser until 2011 for Albertsons in various stores throughout the state. He had a two-year gap from the produce industry when he worked in other fields at a utility company and ice cream manufacturing company until he was brought back to Albertsons during the decentralization period in 2013 as a produce buyer. Since then, he has been promoted to senior buyer for the Portland division, and now acts as produce and floral procurement manager for the Portland division.

Questions & Answers:

Q: How did you begin working in produce?

I started as a retail clerk for Albertsons when I was 18 years old. I enjoyed merchandising, and the seasonality of the produce department. It was a great job to have while I worked my way through college. Albertsons allowed me the flexibility in my schedule to obtain my degree, but also to advance my career in the retail industry.

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

I wish I would have realized all the steps and processes it takes to get produce from the supplier to the end user. There are so many people working in harmony together to get produce all over the globe. I don’t think anyone can truly understand the produce industry unless you live and work it every day.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?

We all rely on technology to perform our daily jobs, but the one true thing about our business in produce is that it’s still centered on partnerships. It feels like too many of these interactions are being lost due to lack of personal connection in our industry. Instead of talking face to face, or on the phone, we settle for mass group emails.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew produce was the industry for you?

The day-to-day change and rush of the industry is what hooked me. I love the chase of commodities when they are tight, and being able to work partnerships to do the best for my organization.

Q: What is the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?

The strict rules on logistics as well as growing practices seem to constantly be changing how we operate. Many of the smaller vendors cannot compete with large-scale operators due to the cost of operating under new guidelines. As we have seen in the retail world with mergers and acquisitions, I think more suppliers and logistic companies will follow the same path to help mitigate rising costs.

Q: What has shocked or surprised you about the produce industry?

I was very surprised to see how many people have family legacies. I love when I meet someone and they tell me how their parents, grandparents, or relative worked in the industry prior to them. It’s amazing how many connections between generations there are in our industry. It brings me back to why I love this industry because of relationships that have lasted through the years throughout the multiple segments.