United Fresh to present lifetime achievement award to H-E-B leader
United Fresh Produce Association will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Hugh Topper, group vice president of fresh foods for H-E-B, at its Foundation Gala Dinner Jan. 16.
“As Hugh plans his retirement at the end of this year, I can’t think of a more deserving individual to recognize for his more than 35 years serving the produce industry,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.
Topper joins past recipients, including Bruce McEvoy, Rick and Tonya Antle, Mike Cavallero, Joe Procacci, Reggie Griffin, Frieda Caplan and Bob Grimm (posthumously).
A native of Midland, Texas, and raised on a family cattle ranch in Oklahoma, Topper received a BS in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University in 1982. He joined Fleming Foods and worked for 10 years in Kansas, California, Missouri and Texas, holding positions as quality assurance manager, produce merchandiser, produce operations manager and manager of frozen food/dairy operations.
Coming back to his roots in Texas, he joined the H-E-B Grocery, where he has worked for 26 years building a solid foundation for the company in fresh produce and fresh foods. Topper has served H-E-B as produce category manager, director of produce procurement, vice president of produce procurement, vice president of produce, chief merchant for central market division and group vice president of fresh foods.
Throughout his career, Topper has been active in the industry serving on the United Fresh board of directors, United Fresh Start Foundation board of trustees, Produce Marketing Association’s PEIB board chairman, Texas International Produce Association board of directors and Produce for Better Health Foundation board.
Topper also has worked with Texas A&M University as a guest lecturer for the College of Agriculture, and as an advisory board member for the Texas A&M Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center and Texas Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.
Topper has always given back to the community. He has been the United Way Chairperson for H-E-B, which was recognized as the number one company employee contributor in Texas. Topper also served on the San Antonio Food Bank Board of Directors and San Antonio Food Bank Committee chair. While leading the Food Committee, he created the annual holiday gift of produce, “Harvest from the Heart,” which has generated over 14 million pounds of fresh produce for those in need to support holiday meals in the past five years.
Topper’s leadership with the United Fresh Start Foundation was a natural outgrowth of his and H-E-B’s commitment to children’s health. In Seguin, Texas, Topper started a salad bar program for all elementary schools. The newest program he created is “Let’s Get Growing,” a program for low-income elementary schools in South Texas. The program teaches second graders how to grow produce through individual take home “farms.” It also partners with H-E-B dietitians, school administrators, teachers, students and parents to put together healthy meals through education and fresh produce consumption. To help drive participation, the school that has the highest support from parents gets a new playground.