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Aiton leaves Sun World to join Prime Time

by Rand Green | November 11, 2009
Mike Aiton, who served for many years as senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sun World International LLC, has left Sun World to take a post as director of marketing for Prime Time International in Coachella, CA.

"The Prime Time family is thrilled to have Mike join our sales and marketing team," Mark Nickerson, managing partner of Prime Time, said in a Nov. 9 press release, the day Mr. Aiton started his new job.

Mr. Aiton will be responsible for new business development and new product development at Prime Time.

"Mike's vast produce marketing experience will help us build new business relationships and strengthen customer service," Mike Way, a partner in Prime Time, said in the release.

Prime Time is a year-round grower-shipper of colored bell peppers and other seasonal vegetables with growing operations in California and Mexico. Mr. Aiton told The Produce News that he started his produce career while still in high school in Colorado. "I started working for King Soopers" and continued to work for the Denver-based retail chain for 22 years, holding various jobs and eventually becoming corporate produce director "with responsibilities for all the operations that had to do with produce and floral."

In 1991, Mr. Aiton was recruited by Sun World, which "at that time was introducing a lot of new products" and was "looking for someone with a retail perspective to help them do that," he said. "We launched seedless watermelons, the 'DiVine Ripe' tomatoes and the 'La Rouge Royale' sweet peppers."

Mr. Aiton was initially in charge of marketing at Sun World but over time "assimilated more and more responsibilities and was eventually the senior vice president of sales and marketing with responsibility for all the [sales] people and all the marketing that Sun World did. I held that position for about 12 years," he said.

In all, Mr. Aiton's career at Sun World lasted 18 years. Then, early this year, Sun World consolidated its Coachella office, where Mr. Aiton had been based, into its Bakersfield, CA, headquarters. Choosing to remain in Coachella, "I was not part of that consolidation," he said.

In December 2008, Sun World brought in Gordon L. Robertson as vice president of sales and marketing, and Mr. Aiton assumed new responsibilities as senior vice president of retail merchandising.

"I leave Sun World with no regrets," he told The Produce News. "I had a great 18-year career there, which enabled me to raise all of my kids and get them out the door and into college and what-not."

Then "this opportunity came along" with Prime Time, he said. "I started talking with them in early October, and things fell together very quickly. It is a group of people that I have known and respected for a long time, and there are some great opportunities here to build marketing and customer outreach programs and help them build their business."