26 Nov 2021
The industry’s highest accolade for an individual goes to Denis Punter who was awarded the Fresh Awards 2021 Lifetime Awards, sponsored by Greencell.
Denis qualified as an accountant while working for Spillers in its Animal Feed & Flour Milling Divisions where he became Financial Controller.
In 1980 he made his entry into fresh produce, joining Glass Glover as Finance Director. Denis worked alongside the Glass family, growing the business through the acquisition of Louis Reece, Clyde Valley Growers and English Village Salads.
In 1987 Denis joined Geest as Finance Director of its fresh produce business where he subsequently moved across to become Commercial Director in 1989 and then to become the first MD of Worldwide Fruit in 1991.
In 1994 he became Chief Executive of Geest Wholesale and Food Service Division which included Francis Nicholls.
In 1995 Denis led the MBO of Geest’s wholesale & foodservice businesses under the Francis Nicholls banner & Denis became CEO. In 1997 Francis Nicholls acquired the well-respected multiple importer Frumar and the enlarged group was rechristened Redbridge, with Denis becoming its first CEO.
Redbridge made several further acquisitions including the berry business AFI. having grown the business to over £200m with retail, foodservice and wholesale divisions in 2007 Denis sold the business to Total Produce and it became Total Produce’s first acquisition following its demerger from Fyffes.
Following the sale Denis contemplated early retirement but instead decided to help Total to integrate the TP & Redbridge business and Denis became Chairman. Over the years that followed, through further growth and acquisition, Total became the UK’s largest fresh produce business.
Denis then worked with Total to help it build its $2billion business in North America and recently he played a major part in the merger of Total Produce with Dole, leading this summer to Dole’s IPO in North America and the creation of what is now the listed business Dole PLC. With a turnover of $10B it is now the largest fresh produce company in the world.
Denis continues to be work as Non Exec Chair of Dole’s UK business as well as on many of Dole’s Boards in Europe & North America where he advises on strategy & acquisitions. Denis is also a Non Exec advisor to Reynolds.
He has four children, two grandchildren and his hobbies are travel, reading and swimming.