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Fruit Patch LLC in Reedley, CA, which recently hired former California Tree Fruit Agreement President Sheri Mierau to head its sales and marketing team, announced the appointment of Sabrina Mak as trade marketing manager.

Ms. Mak, who will report to Ms. Mierau and who was previously director of trade marketing and director of national programs for Ballantine Produce in Reedley, CA, has 19 years of industry experience.

According to Fruit Patch, during her five years at Ballantine, Ms. Mak "developed retail programs that focused on demand and consumer needs. Working with retail partners to build programs and categories has been the backbone of Ms. Mak's produce career, and her contributions have yielded positive results at other companies where she has formerly worked," specifically Vitasoy USA and Yves Veggie Cuisine.

Explaining why she chose Ms. Mak for the trade marketing manager post, Ms. Mierau told The Produce News, "She is the industry expert at category management and is very well respected [by both retailers and growers] for her ability to develop category plans and fact-based marketing programs for retail."

Regarding the opportunities that lay before her in her new job, Ms. Mak said, "To me it is like a blank canvas where I could contribute my colorful insights." The "strong leadership" that is currently in place at Fruit Patch, with Scott Wallace as president and chief executive officer, Doug Reader as chief financial officer and Ms. Mierau as vice president of sales and marketing, "mirrors my philosophy of creating relationships that are long term and of servicing the accounts at a deeper level than just [saying], 'Here is the market price, here is the fruit.'"

"Sabrina … has the knowledge to use retail and consumer insight to create the foundation of our service to our partners," Ms, Mierau said in a Jan. 29 press release.

Fruit Patch has "a good strong team" on the sales side that is "good at customer relationships and who will be very successful, especially as the tools are developed on the category management side and the business side to help them continue that success," Ms. Mierau said. "We have a good strong export program, a good strong Walmart program, and last year a lot of changes were done internally as far as the way things are packed and harvested that put our quality on the top tier from a packed box perspective." The customers who purchased the company's fruit last year "recognized that," she added, "so we are seeing that benefit" and will be working to make sure the company continues to ship "a very solid good quality box."

On sales at Fruit Patch are Tony Supino, Mike Crookshanks, Mike Hatcher, George Neves and Export Manager Tina Haga as well as Vince Balakian, a member of the board of directors who also works on export sales. Brian Haley is Walmart account manager and is based in Bentonville, AR. All have been with the company for a year or more, making Ms. Mak and Ms. Mierau, who came on board the first of January, the only new members of the sales and marketing team.

While there are no current plans for additional hires, "we are … always evaluating what opportunities there might be," Ms. Mierau said.