Ron Parker, one of the retail trailblazers for the UK’s fresh produce industry, died on Monday this week (February 22, 2016). His long-time friend David Shapley, who first knew him in his role as editor of industry newspaper The Fruit Trades Journal, tells us about Ron’s distinguished career and life
Ron Parker, who has died at the age of 87 after a long illness, was one of the most influential characters in the UK fresh produce industry, particularly in the days when the multiple retail sector began to make its mark in the 1970s and 1980s.
He was responsible for Tesco‘s fruit operation as the volume and choice grew across its increasing number of stores. At the same time, Ron was a member of the board of the Produce Packaging and Marketing Association, the trade organisation which brought closer contact between multiples and both large UK growers, their co-operatives and associations. He was also a Liveryman, then Honorary Freeman, of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers.
On retirement, it could be argued that his industry role became even stronger, as he took on the chairmanship for many years of the voluntarily funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Information Bureau (FFVIB), which was a consumer-facing information point for the media and public who wanted to discover more about their fresh produce. The FFVIB was also responsible for launching and building awareness for the Five-a-Day campaign, which is recognised nationwide.
David Shapley writes: “Ron became a close friend over many years, first while I was interviewing him as a full time journalist. Apart from reporting on him at many public occasions, I also had the pleasure of his company and hearing his opinions during numerous UK trade trips abroad, at a time when major UK fresh produce buyers were guests of exporters/importers introducing potentially new or expanding sources for the UK retailer.
“Apart from a great interest in the workings of the industry as a whole, he was a practical observer, but always respectful of the combination of skill, time and effort shown by the producers he met.
“He never forgot his earlier career when he worked for a chain of specialist produce retailers, before the arrival of the supermarket sector, and always judged the claims of quality through the eyes of the final customer – the consumer.”
Ron leaves his wife Sheila, their two children and their grandchildren.
His funeral took place at Western Cemetery, Bulls Cross Ride, Cheshunt, Herts. EN7 5HT at 11am on Friday, February 26, 2016.