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United Fresh Names New Board Of Directors

Brian Kocher Chiquita
Brian Kocher

The United Fresh Produce Association has announced its slate of new officers and directors nominated to serve on its board of directors, effective at the group’s April 29 meeting in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Ascending to board chairman is Brian W. Kocher, interim CEO of Chiquita in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kocher currently serves as chairman-elect. He joined Chiquita in 2005, became president of North America in 2007 and has served in several positions since that time. Most recently he was EVP and COO after his role as CFO, responsible for all aspects of the company’s financial operations worldwide. Kocher also served as president, Europe and the Middle East, for Chiquita Brands International. In that role, he was responsible for leading the company’s operations throughout the region, including bananas, other produce and diversified value-added products. He previously served as VP, controller and chief accounting officer and has more than 20 years of accounting, sales, finance and business process change expertise, including his previous work experience at General Electric and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Kocher earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Ohio University.

United FreshNominated as chairman-elect is Tony Freytag, SVP of sales and marketing at Crunch Pak Sliced Apples in Cashmere, Washington. Freytag and his two partners started Crunch Pak with an idea for creating healthy snacking by preserving fresh-cut apples that Freytag tested in his home kitchen. Originally from Austin, Texas, Freytag attended the University of Texas. His professional career in produce began with Naumes of Medford, Oregon, in 1997 where the idea of sliced apples was first introduced. He has been recognized as a leader in the industry and joined the United Fresh board in 2011, most recently serving as chairman of the fresh-cut processor board. Freytag will assume the chairmanship of United Fresh in 2016.

Nominated to secretary/treasurer is Lisa Strube, director of finance and administration for Strube Celery & Vegetable Co. Strube joined the United Fresh board in 2011 and most recently served as the chair of the wholesaler distributor board.

Current United Board Chairman Ron Carkoski, president and CEO of Four Seasons Family of Cos., will move to the position of immediate past chairman and remain on the board and the executive committee.

The following industry leaders have been nominated to serve as new members of the United Fresh board for a two-year term beginning in April:

• Brian Antle, harvest manager of Tanimura & Antle in Salinas, California, is a fourth-generation farmer who currently works on the family farm managing crop production. He developed a passion for farming early on in his life. He began working for the family business officially when he was 14 years old and went on to graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2006 with an agriculture business degree. His favorite part of his job is working with both his actual family and the extended family that he has grown up with over the last 30 years. Antle most recently served as a member of United’s grower-shipper board and is an alumnus of United’s Produce Executive Development Program at Cornell University.

• Jackie Caplan Wiggins, VP and COO of Frieda’s in Los Alamitos, California, is the daughter of Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s. Wiggins got her start in produce while stuffing envelopes with friends at age 10. By 15 she was spending her summers working at the Frieda’s stall at the L.A. Produce Market and, at 25, she officially started work for the family business. In 1990, she and her sister Karen gained ownership of the company. Wiggins has served in a variety of roles with the company, ultimately taking on the role of COO in 2012. She is a graduate of the inaugural class of United’s Produce Industry Leadership Program. She has served on United’s Research & Education Foundation board, PMA’s exposition committee and, in 2011, she joined United’s wholesaler-distributor board. Wiggins earned her bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing at San Diego State University. She has been nominated as vice chair of the wholesaler-distributor board.

• Suresh DeCosta, manager of quality systems for U.S. supply chain management at McDonald’s Corp. of Oakbrook, Illinois, manages food safety and quality for vegetables, fruit and coffee. He works closely with supplier-partners to drive system improvements in food safety and quality. DeCosta has broad industry experience, including beverage formulation, food irradiation and good agricultural practices related to food safety, fresh fruit and vegetable processing. In 2008, he joined United’s food safety and technology council. In 2010, he was nominated to lead the council’s technical working group for standard harmonization of good agricultural practices and the following year received United’s Technical Award in recognition of his leadership. DeCosta also is the recipient of McDonald’s Corp. President’s Award and the Global Supply Chain Leadership Award for his contributions to McDonald’s USA. He received a master of science degree in food science from Chapman University and a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Slippery Rock University.

• Bret Erickson, president and CEO of Texas International Produce Association in Mission, Texas, is a native of McAllen, Texas. He attended Texas Tech University and obtained his bachelor of science degree in agricultural and applied economics and later enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Texas Pan American. From 1999-2008, Erickson worked as an agronomist for DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred and in 2008 relocated to Hawaii where he served as a plant operations manager. Three years later, Erickson returned to Texas to work with Texas Citrus Mutual and the Texas Vegetable Association. In 2012, he was named president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA). In addition to TIPA, Erickson is manager for the South Texas Onion Committee and the Texas Produce Policy Council. He serves on the USDA agricultural trade advisory committee, the board for the Canadian Fruit & Vegetable DRC, the Border Trade Alliance and United’s government relations council.

• Bob Mast, president of Columbia Marketing International (CMI) in Wenatchee, Washington, has more than 30 years experience on both the retail and supply side of the business. After graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor of science degree in management, Mast worked for Kroger, moving up as produce manager, regional supervisor, buyer, category manager and assistant director. In 2003, he took the role of VP of marketing at CMI and, 10 years later, was promoted to president. Mast serves as a member of the PEIB council for PMA, Washington State Horticultural Association as well as a director for the Washington Apple Education Foundation and Washington Apple Commission. He also is an apple and cherry grower in the Columbia Basin in Washington State.

• Michael Muzyk, president of Baldor Specialty Foods in Bronx, New York, spent the first part of his career as a CIA-trained chef. He discovered his love for cooking in high school while working in the kitchen of a children’s camp and, through the inspiration of a family member, enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Upon graduating, he worked as a chef in various businesses around the country. In 1991, he made a career change to the supply side of the food service business. Four years later, he joined Baldor, quickly advancing through various positions until his current role as president. Muzyk recently served on United’s wholesaler-distributor board. He is dedicated to giving back to the local community; he and the company are involved with local outreach organizations, such as Edible Schoolyard, City Harvest, City Meals-on-Wheels and New York City food banks.

• Jason Pounds, partner of Hardie’s Fresh Foods in Dallas, Texas, serves as the corporate treasurer and secretary. In his current role, he focuses on corporate governance, legal issues, mergers and acquisitions as well as family estate planning. He currently is working on the existing estate plan structure to ensure success while the business transitions to the next generation. Pounds graduated with a liberal arts degree from Southern Methodist University and started working in the fresh produce industry in 1993. He has served as a director for Pro*Act, and in 2013 he became an inaugural member of United’s finance and business management council.

• Howard Roeder, president of Dole Fresh Vegetables in Monterey, California, took on his current role in 2014. He previously held the position of SVP of finance for Dole Fresh Vegetables. Prior to joining Dole, Roeder was president of Herb Thyme Farms and also served as COO of Ready Pac Foods. Earlier in his career, he served as president of several consumer product manufacturing and distribution companies and owned a start-up decorative home accessory import company.

• Dorn Wenninger, VP of produce and floral for Walmart U.S. in Bentonville, Arkansas, joined the company in 2010 to open Walmart’s global food sourcing office in California. In 2012, he was promoted to his current role to lead produce for Walmart U.S. With more than 20 years of global produce and agribusiness experience, Wenninger has spent his professional career managing agricultural production, supply, logistics, sales buying operations and retail. He brings a global perspective to Walmart, having worked 15 years outside the U.S. in more than 90 countries, including roles with PureCircle, Chiquita and Driscoll’s. Wenninger is bilingual in English and Spanish and holds a master’s degree in international management from the Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management. He served on the board of Amigos de las Americas and in 2013 joined the board of the Cobblestone Project.

• Ross Wileman, SVP of sales and marketing for Mission Produce in Oxnard, California, oversees all sales and marketing both domestically and internationally. He has been with Mission for 30 years. During his tenure, he has represented Mission Produce on the California Avocado Commission and has chaired the California Avocado Inspection Committee. Prior to joining Mission, he worked for Storer Broadcasting as the VP of operations for more than 18 years. Wileman attended Cal Poly Pomona before entering the military where he served the country as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and as an instructor pilot. In addition to his role at Mission, Wileman owns 30 acres of producing avocados.

• Charles Wingard, VP of field operations at Walter P. Rawl & Sons in Pelion, South Carolina, has worked in his family’s business since graduating from Clemson University in 1987 where he earned a degree in agricultural economics. In his current role, he oversees vegetable production on approximately 4,000 acres of farmland in South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi. Wingard is one of nine family members actively involved in day-to-day operations. He and his family are active in many industry groups, including the Farm Bureau, Harvest Hope Food Bank and Future Farmers of America. Wingard has been a member of United’s government relations council since 2007 and is nominated as the new chairman of the council.

Current board members nominated to new positions of service on market segment boards and councils include:

• Chairman of the retail-food service board: Greg Corrigan, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores

• Vice chair of the retail-food service board: Susan Reimer Sifford, Darden

• Chairman of the fresh-cut board: Bob Swartwout, Direct Advantage

• Vice chairman of the fresh-cut processor board: Jim Catchot, Renaissance Food Group

• Chairman of the wholesaler-distributor board: Bob Kirch, Caito Foods Service

•  Chair of the produce marketing and merchandising council: Cindy Jewell, California Giant Berry Farms

The following officers of market segment boards and councils will continue their service on the board:

• Chairman of the supply chain logistics council: Kenny Lund, Allen Lund Co.

• Chairman of the grower-shipper board: Tom Deardorff II, Deardorff Family Farms

• Vice chairman of the grower-shipper board: Bob Meek, Wada Farms Marketing Group

The following at-large board members will continue their service on the board: Bill Brim, PFG Focus; Bill Brooks, Westlake Produce Co.; Mark Campion, Taylor Farms; Aaron Fox, Fox Packaging; Rudi Groppe, Heinzen Manufacturing International; Fred Heptinstall, IFCO Systems N.A.; Steve Jarzombek, Roundy’s Supermarkets; Carissa Mace, Fresh Produce & Floral Council; Paul Mastronardi, Mastronardi Produce; Lisa McNeece, Grimmway Enterprises; Bob Morrissey, National Watermelon Association; Mike Orf, Hy-Vee; Gordon Robertson, Sun World International; Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience; Mike Spinazzola, Diversified Restaurant Systems; and Mario Steta, Driscoll’s.

“United Fresh has a strong history of bringing together members from all sectors of the industry to lead our association forward,” said United President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “This lineup of nominees for our consolidated board of directors, together with our returning board members and new officers, makes a tremendously impressive slate of leaders who will ensure a powerful voice for our membership and our industry.”

Board members concluding service at the April meeting include: Immediate Past Chairman Ron Midyett, Apio; Scott Danner, Premier Produce, who served as chairman of the finance and business management council; Bob Elliott, Sunkist Growers, who served as chairman of the food safety and technology council; David Hille, Cabbage; John Keeling, National Potato Council, who served as chairman of the government relations council; Joe Klare, Castellini Co.; Lorri Koster, Mann Packing Co., who served as secretary-treasurer; Angela Nardone, N2N Global; Roger Pepperl, Stemilt Growers, who served as chairman of the produce marketing and merchandising council; Dave Russell, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A.; Randy Scott, Delhaize America, who served as chairman of the retail-food service board; and Mike Wootton, Sunkist Growers.

“I’d like to personally thank Immediate Past Chairman Ron Midyett and Secretary-Treasurer Lorri Koster, who served with distinction as officers this year, and all of those board members who are concluding their service at this upcoming meeting,” said Stenzel. “Our industry is ever-changing, and their contributions and thoughtful leadership have positively impacted our industry’s success and advanced our organization in so many ways.

“I’d also like to thank Ron Midyett and board development committee members Ron Carkoski, Greg Corrigan, Brian Kocher, Lorri Koster, Bob Kirch, Bob Meek and Bob Swartwout for their work this year in nominating an impressive slate of officers and board members,” Stenzel added. “Their job is to help develop a strong and representative leadership on the board for the coming years to drive our association forward, and I commend them to developing a slate of impressive industry leaders.”

About the author

Kristen Cloud

A former newspaper editor and publisher, she once enjoyed leisurely perusing the grocery store aisles but, since having a baby in 2016, she is now an enthusiastic click-and-collect shopper.

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