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Naturipe’s Peterson Builds
All Star Management Team

When we ran Wal-Mart’s Bruce Peterson Resigns, the industry was focused on one question: What will Bruce Peterson do next?

He spent a brief, but highly effective, period on a public service stint promoting traceability, which led directly to the recent meeting in Atlanta of a rare joint industry task force on the subject.

Yet soon after he launched the traceability initiative, we were able to publish another piece: Bruce Peterson Lands at Naturipe As Its New President/CEO

Yet, the mere appointment to a position begged the question: What will Bruce Peterson look to do at Naturipe?

Now, in a dramatic fashion, Naturipe has announced that it is bringing in a team of all stars:

Naturipe Farms Announces
New Senior Management Additions

Naturipe Farms, a limited liability company, has announced the following additions to its senior management team:

Robert Verloop is joining the company as Vice President of Marketing. Robert has been involved in the produce industry for 25 years and will be leaving Sunkist effective February 29, 2008, after serving over 7 years most recently as Vice President of Global Marketing and Licensing, and will be joining Naturipe Farms immediately after. Robert will assume responsibility for all marketing programs, consumer intelligence, communication, licensing, public relations, and government relations.

Don Harris is joining the company as Director of Procurement and Wholesale Sales. Don has over 30 years in the produce industry, and most recently, was Director of Procurement for Wild Oats. Don has served on numerous industry boards, committees, and task forces. He has served on both the Retail Board and the Board of Directors for the Produce Marketing Association. Don will be responsible for all procurement as well as direct sales activities through the wholesale channel.

Joao Felix has joined the company as Senior Director of Information Technologies. Joao has a long and diverse background in information technologies and systems installations both domestically and internationally. He began his IT career with Dole in 1989. Joao will oversee the installation of a new ERP system as well as all IT developments. His area will provide systems support for all internal operations as well as IT services for producers and customers.

Rob Callahan has joined the company as Senior Director of Human Resources. Rob recently left GMAC ResCap, where he served as the regional HR director of the Eastern Region. Rob has a broad and extensive background in all areas of human resource and will direct all activities surrounding employment, recruitment, compensation, compliance, benefits, insurance, and payroll.

Bruce Peterson, President/CEO, offered these comments:

“This is an exciting time for Naturipe Farms and I am delighted with these additions. I have known Robert and Don for many years and their track record of performance is excellent. And the addition of Joao and Rob is rounding out a world class team that will help Naturipe Farms deliver exceptional performance to our producers, consumers, and partners.”

Although we are looking forward to the pleasure of meeting Joao Felix and Rob Callahan, we’ve known both Robert Verloop and Don Harris for a very long time and their appearance at this stage of Bruce’s tenure and Naturipe’s development is a substantial sign that ambitious programs lie ahead.

Robert Verloop’s produce marketing career began with the California Avocado Commission, but he had the progressive spirit to take a flyer and make the leap to, when dot coms in produce seemed all the future. He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Produce for Better Health Foundation and, while at Sunkist led all kinds of marketing and promotional efforts, from Sunkist’s innovative Take a Stand program with Billy Dean to Sunkist’s cooperation with Sesame Workshop and much more.

Don Harris had been Director of Marketing, Produce and Floral for Safeway before he took on the gig at Wild Oats. His appointment as Director of Procurement and Wholesale Sales, is a sign of the importance Bruce is placing on having people knowledgeable in the needs of Naturipe’s customers handle its procurement.

Wait a minute, though… Naturipe is a partnership of producers, so why does it need a Director of Procurement?

This is a clear sign to the industry that Bruce Peterson does not perceive Naturipe as limited strictly to selling its owner’s berries — in fact the one/two punch of Don Harris and Robert Verloop is like the puff of white smoke in a Vatican election — a decision has been made.

Don will build a supply chain of products that retailers will value, and Robert will add value through consumer research, branding programs and trade outreach.

Like any good executive, Bruce first had to build his team. He has quietly bided his time until the pieces fell into place. Now that the team is assembled, look for steady forward movement. Bruce Peterson ran a business so large that if the CEO of Safeway resigned and they offered Bruce the position, he would be running a smaller business than he did at Wal-Mart. It seems that in Naturipe, Bruce sees the nucleus of an opportunity to build a major brand and a significantly larger produce company. This is the start.

We wish Robert Verloop, Don Harris, Joao Felix and Rob Callahan best of luck in their new positions.

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