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 and Minute Maid. 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.
That’s because Barrasso’s job as a food broker for Acosta Sales & Marketing is complicated. He’s the guy who facilitates major deals between companies like A&P and the manufacturers vying for shelf space. It’s a critical role in the food business, and one that’s often overlooked—even his mother thought he worked for a supermarket.
But Barrasso’s efforts are gaining recognition. He’s the recipient of the New Jersey Food Council’s 2017 Max Stone Award, a prestigious 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, 2017.
“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.”
“I’m honored to get this award, and I don’t take it for granted at all,” Barrasso said. “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.”
And Barrasso knows the business better than most.
After graduating from Seton Hall University in South Orange, he began his career as a retail representative for Hillshire Farm in 1990. Soon enough, 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,” the Little Falls resident, husband and father of three said. “We couldn’t leave.”
So he went to work as a broker for the company that would become Acosta Sales and Marketing. He has thrived there ever since, eventually becoming senior vice president of the 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,” Barrasso said. “We just promoted some guys and gals to big roles who I recruited, and it’s so rewarding.”
Barrasso has also picked up a few tricks from his younger colleagues. He recently moved his 200-person office from Hackensack to Plainfield, a process that took almost 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.
But the boss spends most of his time working for his more than 250 clients. Where he could once ink deals through a laugh and a drink at the bar, he must now record and gather every possible bit of data. Because he may meet with Clorox in the morning and Campbell’s Soup in the afternoon, Barrasso also must know the ins and outs of many industries.
Barrasso relies on the New Jersey Food Council 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.”
For registration information to attend the NJFC Trade Relations Conference or ‘curtain closer’ Golf event on June 7 at Galloway National Golf Club, please call 609-392-8899 or register at http://njfoodcouncil.com/