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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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EXCLUSIVELY AT GLOBAL TRADE SYMPOSIUM: Global Business Executive, Catherine Powell, Who Most Recently Oversaw Disneyland, Walt Disney World And Disneyland Paris, Shares Her Unique Life And Corporate Experiences Along Her Global Leadership Journey  When we learned that Catherine Powell had left Disney, we knew that if we could get her to join us at The Global Trade Symposium of The New York Produce Show and Conference that this would be a moment for the produce industry to open up and absorb new ideas and new ways of thinking. 12/10/2019

New Chapter Begins For Tim York As He Reflects On 34 Years At The Helm Of Markon And Plans To Contribute Again At The New York Produce Show And Conference With the shared goal to increase produce consumption at restaurants, Tim York joined us when we launched the Ideation Fresh Foodservice Forum, co-located with The New York Produce Show and Confer­ence. This year that event, held on Friday, December 13, is focused on menu-plan­ning, and we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects editor Mira Slott to talk with Tim. 12/3/2019

Announcing Thought-Leader Breakfast Panel At London Produce Show And Conference Before the trade show, each year, we have a breakfast and a panel. The Perishable Pundit Thought-Leader Panel gathers together important, influential and insightful people from across the globe. The purpose: To advance the industry through thoughtful discussion of important industry issues and to open the minds of attendees as they go into the formal conference and expo. 6/2/2019

2018 London Produce Show’s Thought-Leader Breakfast Features All-Star Cast Of Industry Luminaries combining specialized workshops, regional tours, networking opportunities, chef demos, media programs, student programs, etc. — The London Produce Show and Conference has become a gathering place for thought- and practice-leaders from around the world. Perhaps no part of the event showcases its reach and ambition as much as the annual Perishable Pundit Thought-Leader Breakfast. It is a great pleasure to announce our Thought-Leader Panel for the 5th edition of The London Produce Show and Conference. 5/22/2018

Retail Leadership And PMA: What Is The Future For Buy-Side Involvement? Rotating Careers And Anti-Trust Concerns Coming off another highly successful PMA convention in New Orleans and with the association sure to succeed this year under the joint stewardship of Cathy Burns as CEO and Jin Ju Wilder of LA and SF Specialty as Chairman of the Board, it is worth considering what the future for this incredible industry resource is likely to be. 11/7/2017

Michiel van Zanten On Produce Procurement: Insights From Albert Heijn/Ahold Delhaize Prelude To Amsterdam Produce Show's Thought-Leader Panel We are fortunate to have such wonderful people (and companies that support them) who are willing to share their knowledge, experience and insight to make the whole industry better. The whole Thought Leader Panel is extraordinary, and in advance of the event, we wanted to explore the rich intelligence being laid out at the show. 10/17/2017

Global Industry To Converge And Engage At Amsterdam Produce Show And Conference As Stellar Thought-Leader Breakfast Panel Unveiled In order to gain a competitive advantage, you need to do things your competitors don’t! It is pretty obvious that we should all attend the events where one regularly does business. But the competitive advantage comes from going places and doing things beyond the norm. We’ve been able to create a secret weapon, exclusively for the most progressive leaders, for those who own tomorrow. Nothing better symbolizes what we gather than our Perishable Pundit’s Thought-Leader Breakfast Panel. It is with great pride that we announce the 2017 roster for the Perishable Pundit’s Thought-Leader Breakfast Panel kicking off the main show day of The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference. 10/8/2017


Set Your Alarm For Wednesday, December 7, As 10 Heavyweight Thought Leaders Take The Stage At New York Produce Show’s Keynote Breakfast one of the great traditions of The New York Produce Show and Conference is the announcement of the annual Perishable Pundit’s “Thought Leaders” Panel, which gathers at the Keynote Breakfast of The New York Produce Show and Conference. The panel provides a unique opportunity to hear what key players in the industry see as the path to business and industry success. Without further ado, we are honored to announce the 2016 Perishable Pundit’s Thought Leaders Panel. 12/2/2016

Putting Aside Pesticide Residue Levels And Climate Change Will The City Of Light Be A Beacon For The West To Combat ISIS? We Can Never Prosper If Our Civilization Crumbles feels that we spend so much time and money working with produce trade associations, but every once and awhile something happens to remind us that these associations often don’t deal with the most important governmental decisions. Pesticide residue levels and similar things matter right up to the day something reminds us that there are bigger issues to be addressed. Certainly the coordinated attacks in Paris – at least 129 dead and 352 injured – serve as such a reminder. 11/16/2015

For The First Time On The Continent Introducing The Perishable Pundit’s Thought Leaders Panel At The Amsterdam Produce Show And Conference shares that one of the highlights of The New York Produce Show and Conference and The London Produce Show and Conference that we are bringing to Amsterdam is kicking off the day of the show with our “Thought Leaders” panel. The program is intentionally designed this way because before we head off to a trade show, we need to open our minds to new ideas and new ways of doing things. We are pleased to announce the Inaugural Thought Leaders Panel at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference. 11/2/2016

A New Industry Institution Is Born: Produce Professionals With Less Than Five Years’ Experience — Gain Foundational Excellence In NYC On November 30th finds the produce industry has loads of professional development programs, and most are excellent. What has been missing, though, is a program for people with less than five years’ professional experience or at least less than five years of produce industry experience. So, sounds the horns… let the drums roll… We hereby announce the birth of a new industry institution. 10/6/2015

An Intellectual Tour De Force Of Industry Experts Will Engage On The Thought-Leader Panel Of The London Produce Show And Conference: Helping To Make Individuals And Their Companies More Successful reports that as we prepare to launch the second annual edition of the London Produce Show and Conference, we feel the exuberance of a child starting to stand on its own legs. The numbers are all there… revenues up over a 100% over last year and attendance will be up more than 50%, with pre-registration already far exceeding last year’s total registration. The most important metric, though, is ideas shared, and so it is always a highlight of the run up to the event to unveil the Perishable Pundit’s “Thought Leader” panel. We went in alphabetical order last year so, now, in reverse alphabetical order, a drum roll please.. 5/29/2015

Are Leaders Born Or Made? Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Leader? Find Out At The London Produce Show And Conference As Rutgers University Expert On Leadership, Management And Organizational Development, Mary Nikola, Leads An Interactive Workshop when we learned that Mary Nikola, who we have worked with for years in arranging the student group from Rutgers for The New York Produce Show and Conference, was available to come to London, shepherd a student, and speak in her area of expertise — Leadership, Management and Organizational Development — we were thrilled. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more. 5/27/2015

A Humble Mike Cavallero Discusses Four Decades Of Leadership At Dole finds the Pundit was supposed  to join in the festivities to honor Mike Cavallero as he receives the United Fresh Produce Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A sudden need for a dental implant waylaid that plan. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects editor Mira Slott to talk with Mike. Mira caught up with him as he headed to La Quinta to play in the United Fresh midwinter golf tournament as well as to be honored. He reflects on transformational moments in his tenure and shares well-honed insight amassed during his distinguished career at Dole, spanning four decades. 1/13/2015

Theresa Nolan To Receive The Second Annual EPC Woman Of Distinction Award reports how last year, the Eastern Produce Council established a Women’s Leadership Committee, and in conjunction with that we established a Women’s Leadership Reception at The New York Produce Show and Conference. PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine also commenced an annual tradition of presenting an award to a woman whose life story inspires others and leads to a more successful industry. This year’s honoree has a special connection to The New York Produce Show and Conference. 12/1/2014

Industry Leaders To Share Knowledge And Ideas At New York Produce Show Thought-Leadership Panel Keynote Breakfast announces the New York Produce Show & Conference Keynote Breakfast, which highlights a selection of buy-side thought-leaders from across the region, interacting with buy-side executives with far different perspectives from across the nation and oceans. Yours truly will engage these thought-leaders from retail, wholesale and foodservice in an invigorating discussion on the state of the industry and how we can work together to enhance our mutual success. 11/18/2014

British And International ‘Thought Leaders’ Panel Announced For The London Produce Show And Conference remarks that it is quite extraordinary how the London Produce Show & Conference has come to sit at the nexus of local support, intellectual leadership and global participation. Attendees will see this clearly on Thursday morning when we present the keynote breakfast, which highlights a selection of thought-leaders both from Britain and beyond. Yours truly will engage these thought leaders in a spirited discussion on the state of the industry, the opportunities that change is creating, and how we can work together to enhance our mutual success. We are thrilled to announce that the following insightful authorities are scheduled to appear in the Perishable Pundit’s “Thought Leaders” panel. 5/29/2014

Theresa Lowden Receives First Annual EPC Woman Of Distinction Award details how each year at The New York Produce Show and Conference, we begin something new. This year the Eastern Produce Council established a Women’s Leadership Committee and in conjunction with that we have established a Women’s Leadership Reception. At the reception, PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine will commence an annual tradition of presenting an award to a woman who has exemplified the qualities of leadership that can both inspire other women and lead to a more successful industry. For this, our inaugural award, there was little question that the award should go to Theresa Lowden, Executive Vice President at JOH. 12/9/2013

PMA’s State Of Industry Address Makes The Case For Women In Executive Positions: But Is This Analysis Or Advocacy? mentions how the annual State of the Industry address at PMA was for several years a speech delivered by PMA President and CEO, Bryan Silbermann. It was generally fact-checked to the nines. In recent years, however, other people have been included in the State of the Industry presentation, and the same fact-checking doesn’t seem to go on. For example, Elisa van Dam, Senior Director of Executive Education and Corporate Outreach at Simmons School of Management, which is the institution PMA works with to conduct its annual Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference, gave a speech telling the assembled why “women are good for business.” However, this speech, didn’t persuasively make that case. 11/12/2013

More Than A Woman In Produce: Lisa McNeece Restored Our “Faith In Humanity” offers congratulations to Lisa McNeece, Vice President, Foodservice and Industrial Sales at Grimmway Farms, as she will be recognized at the 2013 Reception Honoring Women in Produce to be held at United’s upcoming convention in San Diego. We’ve worked with Lisa on many projects over the years, and just recently we featured Lisa in our Salad Bar Special Edition, which well represented her yearning to move the industry forward. Of course, we were ahead of the curve on this one, back in 2010 awarding Lisa our own “You’ve Restored Our Faith in Humanity” Award. 4/11/2013

SALAD BAR SPECIAL EDITION: Now Is The Moment To Step Up: Industry Races To Place 350 Salad Bars In California Schools after giving out salad bars at the United Fresh Produce Association Convention in New Orleans to 43 local schools in 2011, and 100 salad bars to Texas schools at the Dallas convention in 2012, industry leadership are now poised to achieve what once seemed impossible: The donation of 350 salad bars to California schools! This movement in California is likely to be a trendsetter, so we decided to devote a whole issue to the Campaign and the broader questions around salad bars. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to find out more by speaking to six leaders of the effort. 3/18/2013

Costco, Sheri Flies, The James Beard Foundation Leadership Award And How Sustainability Differs From Charity extends a hat tip to Andreas Schindler at Pilz Schindler GmbH. He sent us a link to year-old video of Sheri L. Flies, accepting the 2011 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. Costco is a fascinating company and, by all accounts, Sheri is a wonderful person -- not only highly competent but genuinely caring about the fate of people in the whole supply chain. She deserved this award, and Costco deserved the award — mostly because so many who address sustainability choose to ignore the ethical component. 1/22/2013

Three Cheers For Produce! Three Cheers For Students! Three Cheers For Tomorrow! Peterson, Griffin and Spezzano Lead Student Mentorship Program At The New York Produce Show And Conference explains that with the New York Produce Show & Conference, we wanted to do more than just run a trade show; we wanted to make a difference. One of the ways we decided to do that was to launch various student programs. One is a program that serves ag marketing, business and food marketing students. We always seek out important people to chair the program.  We asked Meredith Auerbach, a Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS, to find out more from this year’s chairs about their path to success in produce. 12/2/2012

Pundit’s Mailbag — Price Gouging And The Lessons Of Lincoln our piece, Decision To Fight “Price Gouging” Is A Decision To Prolong Misery, brought votes of support. We appreciate the endorsements but, alas, find that all too many people are not so much interested in the actual results of their actions as they are in the aesthetics of the matter. Hurricane Sandy is history now, but who among our leaders is now working to build the public support necessary so that recovery from the next natural disaster is not, once again, hindered by the need to pander to petty prejudices? 11/27/2012

Pundit’s Mailbag — Booth Babes And The Disconnect With PMA’s Position On Women’s Careers our piece, PMA’s Fresh Summit Triumph And New Commitment To Educating Women, raised the interest of one of the trade’s more prominent women — in fact, the first woman to chair a national produce trade association, Lorri Koster, Chairman/CEO of Mann Packing Co. We’ve been dealing with this issue a long time. We first wrote about it over 20 years ago when we had a cover story in Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, titled Women in the Produce Industry, To us the initiative to stop the booth babes should come from three sources. 11/12/2012

PMA’s Fresh Summit Triumph And New Commitment To Educating Women reports that the PMA convention in Anaheim was undoubtedly a triumph. Triumph must be acknowledged. This year PMA launched a new award, the Carey Leadership award, the first of which was won by Mike O’Brien, Vice President of Produce and Floral at Schnuck Markets, Inc. Bob Carey was the longtime chief executive of PMA, and it was under his leadership that the PMA convention went from a small trade show to the giant event it is today. 11/5/2012

Unprecedented Panel Of Retailers Will Keynote General Session Of New York Produce Show And Conference mentions that at the founding of The New York Produce Show and Conference we established a tradition, and we will continue it this year with the announcement of our Retail “Thought Leaders” Panel. The industry owes a note of thanks to the industry leaders who have volunteered to participate in this panel. Their willingness to share their insight is a gift which makes this industry better, year after year. We thank, in advance, the members of the 2012 Retail “Thought Leaders” Panel at The New York Produce Show and Conference. 9/20/2012

Pundit’s Mailbag — When Confronted With A United/PMA Merger Question, What Would Jesus Do? found among the many letters in response to our articles on the United/PMA Merger, was this one from Fred Williamson, President and CEO of Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce, that brought in a reference to a well known Christian bible verse. The verse is Jesus talking to his disciples and advising them that because of his actions, his willingness to go to the cross, the temporal concerns of the world will be transcended. In sending this verse, Fred holds out the hopeful thought that the tribulations of the trade are difficult but also temporary and the result inevitable. Of course, that raises a question of leadership. 9/6/2012

Pundit’s Mailbag — Get It Done received this letter over the issue of merger between United and PMA encouraging bold action, and naming the person to do it, from Steve Scaroni, Founder & CEO of Valley Harvesting & Packing, Inc./Vegpacker de Mexico. If the associations had gone through the paces, and each came to the conclusion that the industry would be better off if they were separate, that would be one thing. But if the association boards are not willing to say that, industry leadership has to find an alternative solution. Use ours — no charge — or come up with another plan, but as Steve Scaroni admonishes us: “Get it Done.” 8/2/2012

THIRTEEN VOICES: Industry Leaders Weigh In On United/PMA Merger describes how the issue of one national trade association for the produce industry and thus possible merger between PMA and United has long haunted the produce trade. We’ve been attempting to analyze the situation and see what can and should be salvaged from this effort. Today, in ourJuly 30, 2012 Edition, we have selected out a Baker’s Dozen of industry letters to give the trade an opportunity to speak out on this important issue. 7/30/2012

As Association Staff Feels The Strain, Would Wall Street M&A Group Provide Quick Solution To Merger? prints a letter from a former chairman of United and experienced helmsman of several produce companies, Al Vangelos, Co-founder & Principal of Novelle Consulting, LLC. Al is very right about the danger of a drawn-out process on staff morale and retention and his idea about bringing in an investment banker is surely the way to go if you want the transaction to happen. The M&A guys could get us to the optimal business outcome, but whether it is the association the industry wants is an open question. 7/30/2012

Here’s The Face Of The Industry? Is It The Face Of A PMA Or United Executive Or A Volunteer Leader? highlights a letter from Gina Nucci, Director of Healthy Culinary Innovation at Mann Packing Co., who furthers the conversation on the United/PMA merger breakdown. Gina is a person who knows of what she speaks, and she points out that the CEO question — Bryan or Tom — really should not be the question at all. 7/30/2012

Do We Have To Wait Another Seven To Ten Years To Make A Merger Happen? writes that to some extent, the point of all these discussions is that those who Rick Antle, in his letter, called the “ownership” don’t, in fact, have to wait another 7-10 years for this discussion to come up again. FMI killed its trade show a few years back because the CEOs of the big supermarket chains got together and said that they wanted this ended. What we are about to learn is the degree to which those who advocate for merger are willing to actually push for it. Individual companies can serve their own interests while also serving the greater industry interest, and we can do it now. Why should we falter? 7/30/2012

United/PMA Impasse More Than Just A Decision About A CEO — It Is A Battle For The Soul Of The New Association asks why did the choice of CEO matter so much? Understanding this issue may provide a key as to whether the industry ought to proceed with a merger. Tom and Bryan are both perceived to have successfully run trade associations and there are lots of other people who have a good track record at running associations. So, why was it so important to people to have “their guy” run the new association? The answer points to a problematic issue regarding the merger agreement. It is an issue so problematic that it ought to make the industry pause for a moment and reconsider whether it makes sense to merge at all. 7/27/2012

A Modest Proposal For Reviving The Merger Of PMA And United reports how one thing that came through loud and clear at PMA’s Foodservice Conference is that many industry leaders want to see consolidation of PMA and United into one national trade association. Let us deconstruct the breakdown of the talks and lay out a specific proposal for how to resolve the issue at hand. Then, it is up to the corporate leadership of the industry to decide if they care enough about the issue of merger to insist that this proposal be adopted. 7/24/2012

Three Possible Reasons For The Collapse Of The United/PMA Merger Talks our recent piece on The United/PMA Fiasco brought many thoughtful letters, including this one came from a former Chairman of PMA. This epistle raises some important issues. Most notably, the narrative that has been promoted is that the two associations agreed to all components of a merger except the question of leadership. Then over the question of who ought to be CEO of the newly merged organization, the whole thing collapsed. How could United, supposedly seeing a merger as so crucial, just walk away rather than have Bryan be CEO? It makes no sense, and there are only three possibilities. 7/21/2012

An Unusual Perspective — Leader Who Has Served On Both United And PMA Boards Offers Insights On Merger Failure: HARD TO BELIEVE IT REALLY CAME DOWN TO CEO shares a letter sent in response to our recent piece on The United/PMA Fiasco from a member of a rarified fraternity — those people who have served on the Board of Directors of both United and PMA. This is a most thoughtful letter from a most engaged industry participant. He raises four important questions that explain a great deal. 7/21/2012

Pundit’s Mailbag — Putting Leadership First: Consider The Example Of The Ohio Florist’s Association mentions how David Sasuga, Founder of Fresh Origins, has been a frequent contributor to the Pundit. It turns out that in a prior life, David was in the floriculture business, and he sent us a note with an example of how an effort similar to what we were doing in produce has been done more successfully in the floral industry. 7/21/2012

The United/PMA Fiasco: THE SPIN IS JUST HALF THE STORY Lessons Learned: Open Up To Industry Input And Focus On Big Things First explains that the narrative that has been promoted both on and off the record by United goes like this: The negotiations were arduous, but productive. A full agreement had been negotiated and agreed to; the only remaining issue was who should be the CEO of the newly merged association. The PMA board would not accept naming Tom as CEO; United’s board would not accept naming Bryan as CEO. There was an impasse, and the United board suggested punting the decision to the new association board to elect its own CEO. The PMA board would not acquiesce to this and thus the talks collapsed. The facts are correct, but there is a back story. 7/19/2012

PMA And United: To Merge Or Not To Merge? That Is The Question quotes Bruce Peterson, who once said when assessing industry structures, “If we didn’t have the current organizational structure already set up, would we choose, today, to create this structure?” If that is the criteria by which we look at United and PMA, the answer is foreordained as it is almost surely certain that nobody would build the structures of either United or PMA the way they are today. It has simply become impossible to make a list of things that PMA does that United doesn’t and vice versa. So what, exactly, are the prime arguments for and against a merger? 6/1/2012

Pundit’s Mailbag — Truman, Eisenhower And Leadership: The Distinction Between Business And Politics our piece, Business Strategies Don’t Often Translate In Politics, brought this note from Richard Kaiser of The Richard Kaiser Co., who writes: “It is a mistake to assume that a successful business executive and/or entrepreneur would make a good political leader.” The truth is that leadership is complex. Even if you think that business experience is relevant and important in a President, the kind of business experience that Mitt Romney, for example, had — primarily as an investor in businesses — is quite different from someone who sweated out a payroll. 2/20/2012

Demanding Leadership, In Business And Government mentions how we’ve often dealt with the subject of leadership, and our expectations in that area define whether our companies and our industry will advance. The same issues vex our country. We recently wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard that looked to a column written by Joe Nocera for The New York Times as illuminating a surprising unwillingness in our society to demand that those who captain government be prepared to exert true leadership. The piece is titled Keystone, Obama, and Leadership. 2/15/2012

Participate In Tip Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament reports that coming up on Monday, September 12, 2011, is the Third Annual Tip Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament, which benefits the Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence. There are always a lot of reasons to attend these types of events. Yet, even more, there is a kind of spiritual benefit to participation, a way of tipping a glass to those who helped build the industry in which we all toil. For some, the connection to Tip Murphy is personal; others are only remotely familiar with Tip and his contribution to the trade. When the first iteration of the tournament was held, we wrote a piece titled Tribute To Tip Murphy, and we told a story that, in retrospect, makes the case for participating. 9/7/2011

Dr. Johan Van Deventer Travels From South Africa To Join Thought Leaders Panel at The New York Produce Show And Conference as we began the planning for the program content of The New York Produce Show and Conference we knew that rather than focusing on any one individual, we wanted the “keynote” to be a large panel representing the breadth and diversity of the region. So we are pleased to announce that completing our “Thought Leaders” panel is an industry leader who is traveling from the Southern Hemisphere to provide a completely different perspective to our panel. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Dr. Johan Van Deventer, Managing Director of Freshmark, Subsidiary of the Shoprite Group in Western Cape, South Africa. 11/5/2010

Famed Food Writer Joan Nathan To Speak At New York Produce Show And Conference mentions that we are pleased to have an opportunity to introduce to the industry a speaker who we are honored to feature at The New York Produce Show and Conference: Joan Nathan, a distinguished author, lecturer, curator and television host. As a kind of preview of the role that produce has played in her culinary and professional, we asked Mira Slott, Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, to find out more. 8/30/2010

Remembering Jack Pandol marks the passing of Jack Pandol, who was one of the most important and memorable giants in the produce industry. Jack was responsible for more than most realize. As soon as he passed, letters started rolling in. Here we publish notes from Richard A. “Rick” Eastes, Supplier Manager at Market 52; Bruce Obbink, Former President of the California Table Grape Commission and Bryan Silbermann, President and CEO of the Produce Marketing Association, who all join us in sharing our memories of a true leader in the California table grape industry. 8/10/2010

Is PMA’s Foodservice-Conference Success A Sign Of The Economy Turning Around Or A Sign Of Shippers Looking For Alternatives From Their Primary Channels? finds that PMA sent out information highlighting a true triumph at its largest-ever PMA Foodservice Conference, and also touting the unprecedented volunteer leadership exhibited and the future talent attraction programs offered as a part of PMA’s Foundation for Industry Talent (FIT). Of course, kudos to PMA for putting on such an attractive event. We wonder, though, what to make of such high registration numbers. 8/10/2010

Retail “Thought Leaders” Panel Announced For The New York Produce Show And Conference explains that one amazing thing is how the produce community of New York and the broader mid-Atlantic region has joined in support of The New York Produce Show and Conference. Attendees will see this support on Wednesday morning, when the keynote breakfast highlights a selection of retail thought-leaders from across the region. Yours truly will engage these retail thought-leaders in an invigorating discussion on the state of the industry and how we can work together to enhance our mutual success. The following leaders of the retail produce trade in the region are scheduled to participate in the Retail “Thought Leaders” Panel, the marquis presentation at the general session breakfast on the morning of November 10, 2010. 8/10/2010

Joe Nucci, Tip Murphy And Opportunities To Play Golf, Raise Money And Honor Two Good Men reports that this Friday the 2010 PMA Foundation for Industry Talent Golf Tournament, which benefits the Nucci Scholarship for Culinary Innovation, is scheduled. The scholarship is in honor of Joe Nucci who died at only 40 years old and was in line to become Chairman of PMA and was President and CEO of Mann Packing. Also, the second annual Tip Murphy Memorial Golf Tournament will be taking place on Monday, September 20, 2010, at the Oasis Golf Club in Loveland, Ohio in honor of Terrence “Tip” Murphy, a 15-year veteran of the produce industry. Tournament proceeds support the Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence, a scholarship program managed by the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent to aid industry professionals seeking to advance their leadership skills and better serve the industry. 7/27/2010

Students From Farming Communities Beware: America’s Elite Universities Have A Bias Against You describes how organizations such as the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent have missions that include making young people aware of the opportunities that exist for them to work in the produce industry. There may be a bigger opportunity for this than we realized as a new study indicates that many students from farm families and from the broader farm culture are not particularly valued at some of America’s most elite colleges. 7/20/2010

Limited Scope Of Recent Recalls Is Testament To Industry Leadership mentions how in the midst of the outbreaks of the past six weeks, the industry has hard evidence of how truly brilliant has been its leadership. The truth is there is little about the Freshway Foods Romaine recall that was different from what happened at Natural Selection Foods that led to the great spinach crisis of 2006. The big difference is that the FDA has responded differently. That is not an accident. A big chunk of the credit goes to the produce industry leadership recognizing that the key issue was that FDA had no faith in the trade. 6/11/2010

Pressing The Reset Button On PTI saw that the executive committees of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association have come out with a joint statement supporting the PTI concept, eating a little crow as to how it was presented and making some minor changes to the deadlines. If this doesn’t work, don’t blame Danny Dempster, Bryan Silbermann or Tom Stenzel. Execution here will require leadership from industry members. The question is: Will that leadership be forthcoming? No association press release can answer that question. 5/25/2010

A Salute To Joe Pezzini As He Steps Down From California Leafy Greens Group reveals that Joe Pezzini, Vice President of Operations at Ocean Mist Farms, has stepped down as founding Chairman of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement. His retirement brings to an end the most consequential service to the trade rendered by a volunteer leader in the last decade. To Joe Pezzini: A hat tip… a deep bow… and a round of applause for a job well done. The man and the moment met. Lucky for us all. 5/13/2010

The Great PTI Leadership Let-Down our piece, Problems Persist With PTI, brought a response from a man who has been in the forefront of the trade’s traceability efforts, Bruce Peterson, now President of his own consultancy under the name Peterson Insights. Bruce ends his thoughtful letter by saying it is a matter of leadership that has left PTI to drift, and we would agree. To us, it has echoes of the discussions over proposals last year for a generic promotion order, an industry-wide proposal, which would have needed mass support to succeed, but was negotiated in secret and then “explained” to everyone. If great produce retailers and foodservice companies would have required PTI compliance, it would have become ubiquitous. Without that requirement, PTI is no standard at all. 5/11/2010

“You’ve Restored Our Faith In Humanity” Award shares an anecdote of a teenage Pundit whose wallet was once lost and returned in Manhattan. The story helps to illustrate how every once in awhile, something happens in this industry that also serves to buttress our faith in humanity. Such an event happened at the Las Vegas convention of the United Fresh Produce Association, and it prompts us to offer the first ever Perishable Pundit “You’ve Restored Our Faith In Humanity” Award. 5/11/2010

Industry Owes Debt Of Gratitude To Cindy Seel For Her Work At PMA FIT revisits how in the fall of 2006, we ran, PMA Foundation Prepares To Launch, which included a brief reference to the then-newly established foundation’s executive director: Cindy Seel. Cindy left the foundation that became PMA FIT in early March. Cindy living in Atlanta and PMA being headquartered in Newark, Delaware, required much travel. We also suspect that organizational changes at PMA, which served to tie the Foundation closer into PMA’s organizational structure, made the job more difficult for someone working remotely. As the Foundation prepares for its first Board Meeting since Cindy’s resignation, we thought it worth mentioning what an incredible job she did. 4/27/2010

Qualities Of Leadership recalls that over the years, we have done a great deal on the issue of leadership. Now we would like to extend a hat tip to Ed Kershaw, CEO at Domex Superfresh Growers, for sending us a piece on Leadership. He calls it “the best article I have ever read on Leadership.” It is called “Solitude and Leadership” and ran in The American Scholar. It was originally a lecture delivered to the Plebe Class at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In the piece the author, William Deresiewicz, tries to distinguish between high achievers and true leaders. Here are a few pointed excerpts. 4/27/2010

Last Chance To Recognize Young Leaders describes how over the past five years, Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, has done an annual recognition of the trade’s young leadership with its 40-Under-Forty issue. In an attempt to both recognize young leaders and inspire those following behind them, the 40-Under-Forty recipients are unveiled annually in the June issue of PRODUCE BUSINESS and then feted, along with the Pack students, at a special invitation-only reception at PMA each year. We look for individuals who contribute to their companies, their peers, their industry and their community. We are now accepting final nominations for this year’s honorees. You can download a nomination form right here. 4/27/2010peers, their industry and their community. We are now accepting final nominations for this year’s honorees. You can download a nomination form right here. 4/27/2010

Watch History Being Made At United In Las Vegas: Steffanie Smith Becomes First Ex-Staffer Ever To Chair The Organization; Kroger’s Reggie Griffin Is Set Up To Become First Retailer To Chair United describes how this year’s United Fresh convention and expo is filled with terrific presentations and wonderful networking opportunities. Inevitably it will bring to the fore the conversation of a possible merger between PMA and United. The forces driving a merger have not dissipated. Much as it took Nixon to go to China, it may well take a retailer to deliver a merger among the associations. 4/19/2010

Wal-Mart Swaps Strategy For Tactics saw that Business Week ran an article titled: "Wal-Mart and the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Consumer”. The piece discusses why the US Wal-Mart stores reported negative comps for the 4th quarter. It also notes that Sam’s Club comps were up 0.7% during the same period. The article also pointed out was that customer traffic was down. The piece cited food deflation and speculated that Wal-Mart’s core customer was living “week to week” as to the reason why. Our own assessment is that Wal-Mart’s leadership has become increasingly tactical, identifying a short-term problem and jerry-rigging a solution rather than developing an alternative strategic approach to the one Sam Walton detailed. 4/16/2010

Hope To See You At United Fresh/Cornell Executive Development Program asks if you are busy March 14th through the 19th? If you can spare a little time, there is no more productive use of that time than to head off to Ithaca, New York, and attend The United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program. There will be some industry stars, but mostly the program is taught by an interdisciplinary team of ace Cornell professors, hand-selected by Ed McLaughlin, the Robert G. Tobin Professor of Marketing and Director, Undergraduate Business Program, and the dean of academics with an ear on the marketing end of the produce industry. Now here is the thing: there is exactly one chair left in the class of 2010. 3/5/2010

PR In The Produce Industry in many recent controversies affecting the trade, Gary Caloroso, recognized by sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS as one of its 40 under Forty industry leaders, was a quiet giant working behind the scenes to help present the industry in the best possible light. Upon hearing that Sahlman Williams Public Relations and Marketing announced that Gary was named the company’s new president, we thought it was high time to pull Gary from the shadows and ask him to speak out on the intersection of food marketing, technology, food safety and the future. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to chat with Gary. 1/28/2010

PMA FIT’s Leadership Symposium Brings Talent And Education To Dallas explains that, in addition to the regular attendees who participate in PMA FIT’s Leadership Symposium, a few special attendees also take part in the event due to special scholarship arrangements. Each year, Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, and co-partners, Grimmway Farms and Mann Packing, sponsor a scholarship program that brings retailers and foodservice operators to the event. Now for 2010, we can announce this year’s winners. All five of this year’s award recipients are primed both to benefit from the program and, by contributing their diverse experiences, contribute to the program. 1/11/2010

Business Expert David Nour Speaks At Leadership Symposium explains that each year, the PMA FIT Leadership Symposium—presented in partnership with Cornell University—provides the industry with a unique form of leadership development. Last year, we previewed the Leadership Symposium by running some interviews with the 2009 speakers. This year we wanted to profile a speaker who arrived in the US with a suitcase, one hundred dollars and without speaking any English… and has built a very successful career specializing in something he calls “relationship economics.” We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to get a little preview of his approach. 1/5/2010

Integrity In Produce — How Unique Is Our Industry? recalls how back in 2003 Basil Mills joined with Monterey business consultant, Jim Bracher, to launch the Salinas Valley Agribusiness Integrity-Centered Leadership Program. Its goal was audacious: to make the ag-focused training program in Salinas into a national model. It seemed well worth a follow-up, so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from James Bracher, Founder & Chairman of Dimension Five Consultants Inc. We confess to finding in Mr. Bracher’s interview a charming, yet quite disputable, notion that we are all in this together and share with him a warm regard for the people of this industry. 10/30/2009

Loss Of Two Industry Leaders — Bob DeBruyn And Frank McCarthy shares how one of the special joys of going to industry events each year is the opportunity to see old friends. Yet each year, when we head off to PMA looking forward to reunions, we are also confronted with the sometimes bracing reality of reunions that have been held for the last time. Now, as we prepare to head off for Anaheim, we received word of two other friends who will not be there. Bob DeBruyn was an unassuming man but one of great achievement. His DeBruyn Produce Company quietly grew into one of the largest and most diversified onion suppliers in the country. We also got news that Frank McCarthy had passed away. Frank is no stranger to the readers of these pages, having weighed in on diverse issues. His frequent advice to this Pundit certainly made both the Perishable Pundit and sister magazine, PRODUCE BUSINESS, more lively and intelligent. 9/22/2009

Deadlines Approaching For PMA Events/Contests/Award Nominations shares that PMA and the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent (PMA FIT) have recently been bombarding our in-box with deadlines and upcoming events. We thought we would run through a few of these upcoming events here, including a game of golf in honor of Tip Murphy. The proceeds from this event will help to build the Tip Murphy Legacy Fund, which was created by Ready Pac, Chiquita, Paramount Citrus and Naturipe Farms to honor Tip’s life and his 15-year career in the produce industry. This fund supports the Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership. 8/11/2009

Costco’s Heather Shavey And Frieda’s Karen Caplan Honored At United Fresh writes this year’s Women in Produce event at United honored Costco’s Heather Shavey, a veteran, with a quarter century of continuity with Costco, she has become one of the most powerful women in produce. Heather is quite representative of what we see as a future filled with women in the produce trade. Since Karen Caplan organized the first Women in Produce reception in 1995 there have been 12 honorees. It is interesting because most of these honorees were either entrepreneurs or had family ties to the business. It is only a few people, including Heather, mostly working for large companies or organizations that have begun to demonstrate a different path — one more likely to lead to large numbers of women in leadership roles in the industry. 4/28/2009

DMA’s Philanthropic Anniversary Celebration remembers how a few years ago, we received word that Dan’l Mackey Almy was going to start her own company. DMA Solutions — after Dan’l Mackey Almy — and its purpose was marketing and business development for the produce industry. Time travels fast and, yes, it has been half a decade since DMA was launched. As fellow entrepreneurs, we thought a hat tip was in order especially because DMA Solutions decided to commemorate its quinquennial anniversary with five charitable donations, one for each year in business. Two of those donations are headed to industry leadership programs from PMA and United. 4/17/2009

Dan Vache Joins United Staff recalls how as a youth on the Hunts Point Market the Pundit first met Dan Vache as he was climbing the rungs toward VP of sales with Ryan Instruments. Now we receive word that Dan has signed on for a new career with United: “Vache will fill the newly established position of vice president, supply chain management, leading the association’s effort to deliver education, hands-on tools and direct services to assist companies throughout the fresh produce supply chain in meeting challenges in transportation, cold chain management, information technologies, traceability, facilities management, energy efficiency, packing and packaging needs and related areas.” 1/7/2009

Learn From The Masters At Leadership Symposium describes an unusual event offered through a partnership between PMA’s Foundation for Industry Talent, Cornell University and Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, the Leadership Symposium, which will be held January 14-16, 2009, at the Omni Dallas Park West in Dallas. In order to get more insight into what the speakers have in store, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to speak with one of the presenters, Executive Coach, Strategic Facilitator and Author, Tony Jeary. 12/25/2008

Leadership Symposium Offers Stimulating Speakers Michael Engeman of the La Manna group, who won the Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence, focused in on two of the topics at the upcoming Leadership Symposium The presentation Michael mentioned on “empowering business culture” will be presented by Polly LaBarre who co-authored “Mavericks at Work.” Michael’s interest in “leveraging the individual strengths of a multi-generational talent pool” will be satisfied by Cam Marston who wrote “What’s In It For Me’ Workforce: Managing Across the Generational Divide”. We thought that it might be useful if we took a look at the other two presenters at the Symposium and focus here on one with a remarkably eclectic work situation. So we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Rod Beckstrom, Director, National Cyber Security Center at the US Department of Homeland Security. 12/18/2008

PMA FIT Awards 1st Tip Murphy Scholarship: Michael Engeman Of LaManna In Australia To Attend Leadership Symposium in honor of Tip Murphy the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent established the Tip Murphy Legacy Fund. The goal of which is to establish a permanent endowment of $250,000 by 2012 to fund scholarships in perpetuity. Scholarship recipients’ will participate in current and future PMA and foundation leadership development programs. The winner of the very first Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence is Michael Engeman of La Manna Group Australia. Of course, if the fact that the award-winner of a PMA scholarship is an Aussie shows what a big world this produce industry has become, the fact that Michael’s CEO worked closely with Tip shows how small the industry is. 12/9/2008

PMA FIT Kicks Off New Year With Leadership Symposium announces the newly named Produce Marketing Association Foundation for Industry Talent has a new board of directors and will be led by Bill Schuler, President and Chief Executive Officer with Castellini Company. It is an all-star cast and their very first event is the annual Leadership Symposium. now being presented by a partnership of Cornell University, Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine and the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent. The Leadership Symposium is a truly unique event in the annual calendar of the produce industry. It is the only event at which none of the speakers are selected for their knowledge about the produce industry. As such, it is the only event that solely is devoted to bringing new ideas into the trade. 12/3/2008

Perishable Thoughts — What Is Leadership? reports that when challenged as to how the appointment of numerous long-time veterans in both national security and finance could in fact be a harbinger of the “change” candidate Obama promised Americans, the president-elect explained that he would, personally, be the force for change in his administration. Which sets us up perfectly to look at today’s Perishable Thought by Dwight D. Eisenhower — one of several quotes that have been sent on by Scott Danner, Chief Operating Officer, Liberty Fruit Co., Inc., which addresses the nature of leadership. 12/3/2008

Scholarships Available To Industry Through Tip Murphy Legacy Fund in our piece a Tribute to Tip Murphy, we mentioned that the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent was to be the home of a new Tip Murphy Legacy Fund. The purpose of the fund is to furnish scholarships to various PMA and PMA Foundation for Industry Talent events. Although the Fund is now undertaking fund-raising to build a permanent endowment, it is still going to give out one scholarship this year. This scholarship provides free registration and hotel to the winner’s choice of premier PMA and PMAFIT events. Depending on membership status, which event the winner chooses and the number of days in the hotel, this scholarship can be worth in excess of $5,000! Here are the details. 11/4/2008

Senator Harkin Calls For Reform Of FDA’s Food Safety System reveals how late in the evening on July 15, 2008, we received a nice note from Adela Ramos, Senator Tom Harkin’s point person on ag issues, alerting us to a letter his office sent concerning the Salmonella outbreak. Senator Harkin deserves every commendation for sending this letter. Iowa is not a major tomato growing state. Sure there are wholesalers, repackers and retailers in Iowa that deal with tomatoes, but still, all Senators are very busy people and the Gentleman from Iowa could have easily elected to sit this one out. That he did not shows a true measure of leadership for which a grateful nation owes its thanks. Congress can get answers that the industry simply cannot, and the knowledge that important Congressional leaders such as Senator Harkin are concerned and will be pursuing these matters makes a cover up at FDA less likely. 7/17/2008

Tursi Leaves Wal-Mart For Seald Sweet amidst our frequent discussion of change at Wal-Mart, we have chronicled the exodus of produce expertise and leadership from its executive ranks. Now comes word that Steve Tursi, Merchandise Manager for Vegetables at Wal-Mart, has submitted his resignation as well. He is going to be joining Seald Sweet, working out of New Jersey. Back in June 2005 Steve was the recipient of a PRODUCE BUSINESS 40-under-Forty award. Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, said of him at the time: “He is an original member of the Southeast Produce Council and also dedicates time and commitment to educating current and future produce leaders by participating as a repeat guest lecturer at the Cal Poly Agriculture Business School.” He is also a United Leadership Program graduate. For a man not yet 40, a brighter future lies in trying new things. 5/30/2008

United’s New Board Structure: Is It A Brave New World Or Dj vu All Over Again? reports that as United Fresh is building steam in preparation to open its convention in Las Vegas. Simultaneously it announced a new volunteer leadership structure and new board leadership. The new structure is a substantial change, and though it may be new, the Board leadership is composed of tested veterans. The Pundit once ran a strategic planning process for United, and so we know the stresses and strains that a new structure such as this is trying to contain. On the one hand, the very essence of United’s name is that it seeks to find common ground in the industry; on the other hand, each industry segment has its own interests and its own agenda. 4/30/2008

Produce Leadership For All Ages shares that we just returned from PMA’s Leadership Symposium in Dallas, a unique event in the industry in that it encourages out-of-the-box thinking by bringing in speakers who have no particular expertise in produce. While in Dallas, we had a chance to chat with Matthew Enny, a category management analyst out of the Salinas, California office of Duda Farm Fresh Foods. He was the recipient of the first Produce Marketing Association Education Foundation (PMAEF) young professionals’ scholarship to attend the Leadership Symposium. As we listened, we thought that his willingness to credit others with his success was a sign of strong character. He kept some notes on a blog about the Leadership Symposium, and we thought he had some interesting thoughts that reveal how a young industry executive experiences these events. 1/23/2008

Tim York Will Chair Center For Produce Safety mentions we noted the launch of the Center for Produce Safety here and the appointment of an interim Executive Director here; now we are pleased to mention the appointment of Tim York, President of Markon Cooperative, as Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Produce Safety. Tim has become an indispensable asset for the produce trade. After serving as chairman of a national association, many would feel they did their bit for the industry. Yet Tim took a leadership role in the resolution of the trade’s food safety crisis — an activist activity for which we named him one of the winners of our Single Step award. Tim York is thus chairing the board of an organization that is exceptionally consequential to the future of the industry. We wish him every success. 1/23/2008

PMA Leadership Symposium Scholarships Announced recalls that in November, we announced a scholarship program for retailers and foodservice executives to attend the upcoming PMA/PRODUCE BUSINESS/Cornell University Leadership Symposium in Dallas. The nominations are in, the judges have deliberated, and we are pleased to announce the four winners of all-expense-paid scholarships to attend. We know they will gain much from the program as they will contribute much by being part of the learning and networking that goes on in the classroom, the meal functions, as well as in the (slightly upscale) university-like atmosphere that develops when 100 produce industry executives take over the Symposium’s new venue, the Omni Dallas Hotel. 12/19/2007

Scholarships Offered To Attend PMA Leadership Symposium In 2008 reveals that come January 2008, PMA, Cornell University and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine will partner to present a very special event: This year’s PMA Leadership Symposium. PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine has partnered with Grimmway Farms and Mann Packing to make a special scholarship opportunity available for four fortunate industry executives, two each from the retail operator and the foodservice operator end of the industry. The scholarship is all-expenses-paid, and this program will ensure that the PMA Leadership Symposium will draw on the intellectual capital of all segments of the trade. If you fit the criteria, or know someone who does, this is an opportunity to attend a program that will take attendees out of the box of “industry thinking”. 11/7/2007

Fantastic Friday remarks that it goes without saying that trade shows offer all kinds of value to participants. Yet, perhaps the most common mistake made in the industry is to value trade shows while neglecting the plethora of activities that surround them. Just to get a flavor for what you are missing, here are just some of the things going on in Houston the day before the trade show — a day we’ve dubbed Fantastic Friday. “Fresh Perspective: A Women’s Leadership Event”, where women leaders from around the globe will meet, mingle and hear an uplifting and entertaining presentation from a woman who has excelled in her field and will motivate you to do the same. And the Luncheon General Session headliner this year, General Colin L. Powell, who answers the question: What does it take to be a great leader? 9/26/2007

Meet United’s Executive Committee as key decisions are likely to be made in the near future, especially on issues such as PMA/United Merger, the leadership group of the national trade associations is crucial. In general the boards of the associations depend heavily on the executive committees, and members place great weight on the recommendations of the association’s executive committees. So we wish this year’s crew for United all the best. “Our members and the produce industry are fortunate to have these outstanding individuals serve in this leadership capacity,” Chairman Emanuel Lazopoulos said. “Both the Executive Committee and full Board of Directors are committed to industry service in shaping our association’s policies, programs and priorities to best meet the industry’s needs.” 9/7/2007

Tim York Recognized For Food Safety Leadership describes what was surely the most predictable and the most deserved award given this year, Tim York, President of Markon Cooperative, was chosen as The Packer’s Foodservice Man of the Year. Tim spearheaded the Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative. Tim didn’t have to lead this effort. He had already been chairman of the board of PMA, and nobody could have said that he hadn’t done his bit for the trade had he done nothing at all. Yet Tim was possessed by a steely resolve to see right done and he did what a man secure in the virtue of his cause is compelled to do. In so doing, he both substantively moved ahead the industry’s agenda on food safety and provided an example for us all of the power of one man with a righteous cause. 7/18/2007

Association President Needed In Southern California reminds that our industry institutions always require good leadership, so we would like to take a moment to draw everyone’s attention to one of our Pundit advertisers. See that red box flashing along the right side of this page? It is an advertisement for “Executive Employment Opportunity” and “Regional Trade Association Seeks President.” This is an important position to be filled, and it will put some lucky candidate in a place to make a real difference in the industry. And you get to live in sunny Southern California. 7/13/2007

United Fresh Leadership Class Of 2007-2008 reveals that, with the generous funding of DuPont Crop Protection, United has announced the 13th Leadership class. This program is unique, and we’ve never heard one participant who didn’t think it worth the not insignificant commitment to participate in the program. Congratulations to the new class, appreciation to their companies for allowing them to be a part of the program and thanks to both DuPont and United for funding and operating the program. The individuals who complete the program know that they have benefited, but the whole industry also benefits when members of the trade acquire the skills to become leaders of the trade. 5/30/2007

Colin Powell To Speak At PMA Convention reveals this year PMA is changing the schedule of its annual trade show, Fresh Summit. The switch to a Saturday, Sunday, Monday show from the longtime Sunday, Monday and Tuesday show was driven by attendee and exhibitor input. The opening party will now be Friday night and the first General Session will be a Friday luncheon at 1:00pm. To make sure everyone has plenty of motivation to get there on time, PMA has retained a headline caliber speaker: “The Honorable Colin L. Powell, military leader, political icon, speaker, and author of his best-selling autobiography “My American Journey”, will draw from his own experiences and those he obtained as an eyewitness to leadership to convey what he believes are the necessary elements for leadership success. He will speak about effective strategies to gain control of change and crises and the notion that being a leader is far more than a bestowed title.” 5/23/2007

NRA Adopts Leafy Greens GAP Metrics assures that the produce industry got very lucky here. We were able to get wind of what was going on early enough to bring enough pressure so that NRA didn’t follow its original plan, which was to announce a fait accompli at its conference, in which 25 major chains would have already signed off on the GAP standards that had been drafted by the Food Safety Leadership Council. Donna Garren and Peter Kilgore, Acting Interim President and CEO of the NRA, along with other key NRA executives, deserve much praise for coming out in the right place. A willingness to change course when the facts demand it is a leadership quality much to be desired. 4/1/2007

Pundit Special Edition A Big Win for the Industry proclaims the industry’s primary response to the spinach/E. coli crisis of last fall, the use of a California Marketing Agreement to provide a form of mandatory regulation for leafy greens, has emerged triumphant. and has won virtually unanimous support in California. The concerted efforts of industry leadership turned it all around. Decisions in favor of the agreement by the National Restaurant Association and by the top executives of Fresh Express represent great acts of leadership. That this highly fragmented industry has been able to gather around this initiative says an enormous amount about what true leadership can accomplish and gives just cause for an optimistic attitude about what the industry can achieve if it can maintain its focus on food safety. 4/1/2007

Far Above Cayuga’s Waters…. …is where an important segment of industry leadership will be heading this weekend and the fact that 40 industry executives, and the companies behind them, have made this commitment is probably the most positive statement that can be made about the state of the produce industry. Many years ago when United started its Leadership Development Program, nobody fully realized how important that program would be to the industry. If there was any doubt, the outpouring of affection for Tim Vaux as he left Dupont, United’s partner in the program, confirmed its value. The 40 students this year will one day be seen as the first in a long line of classes, and they will take special pride in having been on the Cornell campus at this very first iteration of the United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program in March of 2007. Your humble Pundit will be proud to have been there with them. 3/9/2007

NRA Stands Defiant points out we’ve been following the activities of the National Restaurant Association on fresh produce and food safety. NRA intends to announce new food safety standards at the end of March which will reject the sufficiency of the standards about to be adopted as the accepted Good Agricultural Practice document under the California Marketing Agreement. Why is NRA doing this when the produce industry is more than willing to work with NRA? Maybe because an association in between leaders can easily see its agenda hijacked. The CEO of the NRA resigned. All this change is not conducive to true leadership. Right now the superficial appeal is to “be strong” and position NRA as demanding food safety from its suppliers. True food safety, as with true leadership, is more complex. 3/9/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Stenzel Speaks Out On Food Safety And Food Dudes our piece, A Tip Of The Hat For Stenzel, brought a thank you note from Tom Stenzel plus a commentary on both the state of legislative interest in the produce industry and efforts to increase produce consumption. These new more sophisticated approaches bode well for the industry as we struggle to create safer product, grow consumption and build a stronger industry. Initiatives like these also require an industry infrastructure, and that requires dedicated volunteer leadership at all levels, local to international, in many organizations, including United. Volunteering is intimidating at first and seems like a tremendous sacrifice. Yet, we’ve known many of the most involved volunteer leaders and we’ve never met one who didn’t feel he got more out of volunteering than he ever put into it. 3/8/2007

Tim Vaux Reflects On DuPont, Leadership And Jeff Gordon our piece, Tim Vaux To Leave DuPont, brought an outpouring of interest and concern from the many who have participated in United Fresh’s Produce Industry Leadership Program. Here is an assortment of responses, some sent directly to the Pundit and others that Tim shared with us, of the things people are saying about Tim. With such strong concern, we followed up with Tim to gain a perspective on his years with Dupont and the future of the Leadership program. 2/23/2007

The Perishable Pundit’s Unsung Heroes Award as we prepare for Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate that the industry should give thanks to those who perform yeoman’s service for the trade. So on this Thanksgiving Eve, we launch a new occasional series for the Pundit highlighting people who do important and valuable work, but are not often recognized. In the aftermath of the spinach crisis, it wasn’t even close to select our first three honorees. In this situation, there were also countless hours of difficult, technical work. Discussions with government agencies, with industry technical teams and much more — all to get the spinach re-start up and going. Many staff members contributed to this, of course, but our Unsung Heroes were the ones who really carried water for the trade through this technical process. 11/22/2006

Tim York Takes Leadership Role In Food Safety Crisis reports that we’ve been dealing extensively with the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative. Growing out of initial conversations between Dave Corsi of Wegmans and Tim York of the Markon Cooperative, the Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative was quickly endorsed by nine important buying organizations, now another 10 important retailers have added their signatures to the letter, all of whom we list here. Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, talked to Tim York to get an update on the progress of the Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative. 11/21/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wild Oats’ Harris Talks About Mentorship identifies one of the consistent themes we have dealt with here at the Pundit is leadership. It is the one constant that applies across all the issues that confront the industry. Today we have another letter on the subject from Don Harris Vice President of Produce and Floral for Wild Oats Markets, Inc. What is interesting about leadership is that it requires a certain amount of heart. A company can order its employee to serve on a board or to run an in-house training program, yet you can’t order someone to be a leader or a mentor, because the key thing that defines a leader or a mentor is the way others perceive you. The industry is now filled with training programs, honors and much more to train and celebrate leadership. Yet, true leadership is bound to be just beyond the reach of any training programming. 11/17/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Spezzano Defends DiPiazza/Wal-Mart received a note from Dick Spezzano, once Chairman of PMA and for many years VP of Produce at Von’s, regarding the Pundit’s piece on the state of Wal-Mart and Bob DiPiazza’s resignation from Sam’s. Seeing Dick Spezzano and Bob DiPiazza’s names intertwined like this reminds me of the “good old days” when these gentlemen were leading PMA and the regional retailers they worked for. They, along with a few others, were the true fonts of innovation, passion and leadership in the trade. It is also true that they did all this while maintaining their spirited personalities. In fact, as we’ve run our Pundit series on leadership herehere and here, and we’ve heard from so many readers about a style of leadership gone, we often remember the passion these gentlemen brought to everything, that passion is still with Dick as he sticks up for his friend. 11/10/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — United Responds recalls an earlier piece we wrote about the launch of the new United Fresh Produce Association here, and then the industry almost immediately became engulfed in the spinach E. coli outbreak. Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of the new United, stole a few minutes to send the Pundit a note. One thing is for sure, the industry response to this problem or any other problem depends crucially on volunteer leadership. Emanuel Lazopoulos, Senior Vice President, North America Sales, Marketing and Product Management at Del Monte Fresh and the incoming Chairman of the United Fresh Produce Association, also reflects on the passion that leadership requires. 9/18/2006

Best Wishes To United Fresh Produce Association announces The United Fresh Produce Association now exists, a consequence of the merger of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and the International Fresh-cut Produce Association. The merger concentrates resources and should operate more effectively than either did alone. Over the years people have bandied about the idea of a merger between PMA and United. It may happen one day, but it is doubtful it would be better. In every other facet of our economy, we find that competition produces better outcomes. Why should association management not also benefit from robust competition? This is a substantial industry, filled with passionate and devoted people who want to be part of industry leadership. Multiple outlets for this kind participation is perhaps more than enough to compensate for some operational inefficiencies. 9/14/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Where’s The Passion? recognizes the issue of leadership is hot controversy. A correspondent writes today saying: “I think this discussion of leadership is missing the metaphysical, almost religious nature of leadership. What is often missing in our industry leaders is “passion” in terms of genuine care for this great industry.” I think there is a long-term trend in which the business is becoming less important to its participants. Part of it is societal. There are fewer people who were born to the trade and, even more important, fewer people who are certain their children will wind up in the business. That reduces commitment levels. I hope that people with passion will rise to the top and help us lead the industry, but I also hope that the professional staff of industry organizations develop the kind of institutional support so that every leader doesn’t have to be a superstar. 9/6/2006

Pundit's Mailbag — More On Leadership following our recent pieces on leadership, a lot of people wrote to say that while they thought young people were doing incredible things in the business, not much was being done in terms of industry and association leadership. What these letter writers are speaking to is a disagreement about the kinds of companies that should have industry leadership roles. The problem really comes about as a result of weak associations, desperate for the affiliation of major companies and important people, that they advance them too quickly to important leadership posts without proper vetting. PMA and the existing industry leaders must be sure that the people proposed for leadership positions have both a willingness to work on behalf of the whole trade and that their company is committed remaining involved and supporting its employees in leadership. 8/25/2006Pundit's Mailbag — Consumer-Focused in our piece, Being Consumer-Focused we mentioned how at virtually every food industry conference, speakers all repeat that we have to be consumer-focused, we have to serve the consumer, on and on. Yet in actual execution, we find that consumers are generally ignored or viewed in a very limiting way. These comments brought a supportive note from Richard Kaiser with The Richard Kaiser Company who agrees that “being consumer-focused is more about making the consumer want what you are trying to sell them, rather than listening to what they need and want. Somewhere in all this, there is a kind of intellectual leap that great executives take in which they stop thinking narrowly of the consumer and start associating themselves with the hopes, dreams and aspirations of that consumer. 8/23/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Leadership received a letter from an industry member who is frustrated by what he calls the “spreadsheet mentality” of some key industry operatives. There is no question that the industry has a lot of up-and-coming leaders, by any objective standard, there are more leaders, better trained, than ever before. Yet, there is a core of truth in what this reader writes. Many of the sharpest people in the industry today are MBA-types, aces with the spreadsheet but, in some cases lacking passion for the product. Corporate support for involvement in industry affairs is the key. There are plenty of good people, the challenge is in getting their organizations to support them. 8/21/2006


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