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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Mayda Sotomayor
Heads Up Seald Sweet

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 14, 2007

She started in the produce industry as a receptionist, working her way through college. Then she fell in love… with an industry. And now Mayda Sotomayor has become the CEO of one of the most venerable names in the business:

As Seald Sweet International continues to grow and diversify its global strategy, new positions have been appointed in the management of the Vero Beach, FL-based citrus marketing company. Effective Wednesday, August 29th, former senior vice president, Mayda Sotomayor, has been named the new CEO, becoming the first female Chief Executive Officer in the history of the 98-year-old company.

Among her many accomplishments at Seald Sweet, Ms. Sotomayor is credited with building Seald Sweet’s imports programs over the last decade, positioning them as a global leader in the citrus category, and continuing to build transcontinental partnerships with its parent company, Belgian-based UniVeg.

Additionally, she was recently elected as a board member of Mouton Citrus, PTY, one of the leading producers of citrus in South Africa and partner of Seald Sweet. She is also on the board of directors of Forbel S.A, a totally integrated Uruguayan citrus company owned by Seald Sweet.

There should be very few problems in transition as one suspects she has been doing many elements of the job for some time. She is assuming the position from Heinz Deprez, owner and President of UniVeg, which owns the majority of Seald Sweet. Mr. Deprez has been “acting” CEO since 2004.

Ms. Sotomayer is bringing with her a revamped management team:

Also acquiring new positions within Seald Sweet, David Mixon is the new Chief Marketing Officer, heading the company’s new business ventures. Since joining the management team in 2004, Mr. Mixon has driven expansion for the company in Florida, California and Texas.

Coming from UniVeg’s Portugal location, Vitor Figueiredo has been appointed the new CFO. Mr. Figueiredo’s financial experience with UniVeg’s $2 billion turnover will enable the company to continue to maximize profits and build new investments.

In addition to the globally sourced citrus from countries around the world, Seald Sweet also continues to broaden its product offering base with other commodities, such as pears, grapes and blueberries from Argentina, Peru & Uruguay.

The new position is something of a vindication for David Mixon, who had spent many years with DNE but has built a new and successful career with Seald Sweet. Mr. Figueiredo isn’t well known in the States but seems like the trusted UniVeg guy sent to keep an eye on the money.

Ms. Sotomayer has expressed her role this way:

When asked how she felt about leading a company in a relatively male-dominated industry, Sotomayor said she felt “no pressure.”

“Today there are so many opportunities for women in international business,” Sotomayor said. “All it takes is hard work and determination and never to listen to those who tell you — you can’t do something.”

In her eight years with the company, she has been a senior vice president and director of imports.

In her new role, she will focus on the company’s response to citrus diseases and expanding Seald Sweet’s product offering with other commodities, such as pears, grapes and blueberries from Argentina, Peru and Uruguay.

“Short-term, we will focus on strengthening the Florida citrus industry as it continues to recover from hurricane and canker losses,” Sotomayor said. “Long-term, we will continue to gain a higher percentage of the market share in fresh citrus while expanding our product base.”

In her prior roles with the company, Sotomayor assisted building Seald Sweet’s imports programs and growing a better partnership with its parent company, Belgian-based UniVeg.

Seald Sweet is a fantastically interesting company in that it has managed to transform itself from a sleepy citrus co-op into the arm of a multi-national produce giant run by someone everyone in Europe says is sharp as a tack.

We wish both Mayda Sotomayer and David Mixon well in their positions, and we welcome Vitor Figueiredo to America.

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