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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Chiquita’s Brain Drain And A Savior Perhaps

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, February 7, 2007

Our article Concern for Chiquita’s Future brought this thought from one of the most well-informed people on the international produce scene:

In addition to the Chiquita departees you reference, Chiquita also lost Jeff Jackson (Managing Director of its Asia business) — an industry dynamo and one of the savviest produce people I know.

This hemorrhaging of intellectual capital can’t be good, and its explanation is best found in the culture clash between the P&G team at the head of Chiquita and the produce people who are expected to actually do the work.

It is a difficult issue and to no small extent it is as Yogi Berra once said: “Deja vu all over again.”

Chiquita wound up in bankruptcy because a group of packaged goods executives were put at the helm and tried to do things that just don’t work in produce. It is not clear that the lesson was learned.

Obviously there is much that produce people can learn from packaged goods but the only people successfully applying those lessons to produce are those who were already steeped in the idiosyncrasies of the produce trade.

Fortunately for Chiquita, one such person just became available. As we mentioned in our piece, Wal-Mart’s Bruce Peterson Resigns, he brilliantly applied things Wal-Mart had been doing with dry goods to the fresh produce industry.

He also happens to be a Chiquita partisan. In the early days of building the Wal-Mart produce operation, he was exclusively Chiquita, looking to borrow brand equity from Chiquita for the nascent Wal-Mart produce department.

It was a brilliant strategy, and bringing him into the Chiquita fold would be a brilliant strategy as well.

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