According to the New Jersey Food Council (NJFC), when new friends ask Stan Barrasso what he does for a living, he finds it difficult to respond.
He could tell them about how he connects supermarkets with big brands, like Coca-Cola. Or he could discuss his drive to help up-and-coming companies, like the chickpea-centric Banza Pasta, learn the food business and succeed.
But, typically, he just tells people he’s a salesman.
Barrasso is the recipient of the NJFC’s 2017 Max Stone Award, an honor given to those with an accomplished career in trade relations. The award will be presented to Barrasso during the NJFC Trade Relations Conference at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City on June 6.
“Stan Barrasso is an outstanding role model in the food trade industry,” said NJFC President Linda Doherty. “His style and ability to forge partnerships between the supplier and food retail community is admired and appreciated.”
Barrasso said, “I’m honored to get this award, and I don’t take it for granted at all. We have a great industry, and the thing that hits me the most about it is the quality of the people and their willingness to come together for each other.”
After graduating from Seton Hall University in South Orange, Barrasso began his career in 1990 as a retail representative for Hillshire Farm, where he climbed the ranks and took on more responsibilities. By age 28, Barrasso was at a crossroads: either accept a promotion and leave New Jersey or look for new work.
“My family and I are New Jersey through and through, and we’re proud of that,” said Barrasso, a Little Falls resident, husband and father of three. “We couldn’t leave.”
So he went to work as a broker for the company that would become Acosta Sales & Marketing. He has thrived there ever since, ultimately becoming SVP of the company’s Metro Mid-Atlantic region.
His favorite part of the job is mentoring young food brokers and watching them grow, both personally and professionally. In fact, as a team leader, he has taught newcomers the business for more than a decade.
“They’re inquisitive, and they want to know everything. Teaching them is what keeps me going,” said Barrasso. “We just promoted some guys and gals who I recruited to big roles, and it’s so rewarding.”
Barrasso also has picked up a few tricks from his younger colleagues. He recently moved his 200-person office from Hackensack to Plainfield, a process that took nearly two years and, despite some concerns, didn’t result in a single resignation. The new space represents a step forward, bringing employees together to brainstorm over ping-pong, basketball and Xbox matches.
Barrasso said he relies on the NJFC to help him and his employees better understand the factors that could affect the food trade. Even better, Barrasso said, is the council’s proven ability to successfully fight for companies like Acosta.
“I feel like I owe them a debt,” he said. “Things that could have affected not only our business at Acosta, but the whole industry, have been warded off by the food council.”