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Another Sea ChangeAt Wal-Mart

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, May 19, 2009

In a sense, it is not a particularly important piece of news that Pam Kohn, who had been named to succeed Bruce Peterson when he left Wal-Mart as Senior Vice President, Perishables and General Merchandise Manager, has left the division to move over to global procurement.

Although doubtless important within Wal-Mart, she never took much interest in industry affairs and, unlike Bruce, didn’t participate in associations, certainly never sought to become Chairman of PMA or anything like that.

Her departure after just over two years in the job is not really surprising. She had no particular connection to perishables, having been a Senior VP for Non-perishables at Stop & Shop; her holding the job always had the air of Wal-Mart’s penchant for getting its people to cross-pollinate. So here they added some perishable expertise to her resume. If she ever acquired any love or passion for the category, it was well hidden.

She was never long for the job anyway. At the time Bruce left, she was Senior VP for the southeast division, which meant she was on the road constantly. She had wanted to get off the road and Wal-Mart filled the ”spot” with her.

Of course, that in and of itself is the story. For Bruce, being VP of Produce and then Senior VP of Perishables, was a career… a life’s work… to build and elevate Wal-Mart’s produce and broader perishables area. It was a position requiring special expertise in the field and was the fulcrum for passion about fresh foods at Wal-Mart.

Now, it is a slot to be filled a few years at a time by executives who need to get their resume punched that they have perishable experience.

This encapsulates the sea change that Wal-Mart has undergone and has extraordinary implications for the produce and fresh food industries.

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