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Generation Next: Dandrea Produce adds another member of its fourth generation

Peter Dandrea, fresh out of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the fourth generation at Dandrea Produce Inc., recently came on board full time at the Vineland, NJ-based company and is off to a fast start.

The 22-year-old son of Dandrea Produce Vice President Steven Dandrea already holds the title of logistics coordinator for West Coast farms, logistics coordinator, import programs, and logistics director for the company’s direct store delivery program.

Dandrea will earn his bachelor of science degree in economics later this summer when he completes his final two courses, which he is taking after work hours.

“My older sister, Lauren, is 24,” he said. “She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences in 2011 with a bachelor of science in public health with a minor in biology. My younger sister, Bridget, is 18 and just graduated from high school. She’ll be attending Villanova University in the fall to study business.”

As it does to the rest of the Dandreas, family means a great deal to Peter. Tight-knit would be putting it mildly. There are currently three of the seven Dandrea grandchildren — representing the fourth generation — now working in the company full time. The third generation, which includes Peter’s father, Steven, and uncles Frank and Ron, owns and operates the company.

“We hope that eventually all of the kids will be working in the business,” said Dandrea. “I love waking up in the mornings and coming into work with my uncles, my father and the rest of my family. I know that soon enough all of the Dandreas will get to feel the same pride and enjoyment that I feel coming into work every day.”

Although his concentration specialty at the Wharton School is multi-national management, Dandrea’s heart is in sales. He has attended the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit conventions with his father and uncles, and he attended Fruit Logistica in Berlin in February this year. They stationed themselves at the booth of their growing partner, E. Martinavarro S.A., in Valencia, Spain, which produces the popular “Roxy” clementine label.

“These have been fascinating experiences for me,” said Dandrea. “The culture of Dandrea Produce today is quickly spreading across North America and now has widespread and strong involvement with offshore companies. Our goal is to invest in farming in foreign countries. I traveled to Fruit Logistica with my uncle Frank. I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of procurement and financially balancing a company, while my father and my uncle Ronnie have been teaching me how to sell. My true niche is in selling, which will ultimately become my primary role in the company.”

Dandrea never doubted that he would join the family business as a career after completing his education, but there was one small “itch” that might have had him heading in a different direction for a fleeting moment. His family has a host son, Jack Crawford, who grew up in his home throughout school and college. Jack was drafted by the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League a couple of years ago.

“I also played football in high school and college,” said Dandrea. “Jack played football for Penn State University and I was playing football at the University of Pennsylvania at the same time. During my time there my team won back-to-back Ivy League championships in 2009 and 2010.”

In 2009 Penn State won the Big Ten Conference championship and went on to play in the Rose Bowl. It was an exciting time for both Crawford and Dandrea.

“Jack pursued a career in the National Football League with the Oakland Raiders,” said Dandrea. “It was somewhat tempting to follow his lead. I’m six-foot-five and I weighed 300 pounds — a good size for an offensive lineman. I played basketball a lot growing up, so I was pretty quick on my feet.”

But his education at Wharton was a stronger force on what he would do after college, as was the fact that he already knew a lot about the produce industry and the family business. Crawford, Dandrea noted, might join the family business when he retires from his football career.

Like other family members in his generation, Dandrea started going to the office at about age 10. Throughout high school and college, he learned the basics of produce while working there on days off from school, weekends and summers.

“I vividly recall spending time with my grandfather, who I’m named after, when I was young, as well as with my father and uncles who were all great mentors to me,” said Dandrea. “I cannot stress enough the impact that my grandfather especially had on me. He led by example and taught me that integrity and honesty were priceless. He also taught me to be thankful for everything I have and to always help the less fortunate. I think about him every day.”

Outside of work, Dandrea enjoys playing golf, usually in one of the great southern New Jersey golf courses, and he’s an ardent reader.

“My literary tastes have changed over the years, and today I’m reading a lot of business books like Freakonomics,” he said. “I also enjoy reference and psychology books, especially Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and The Tipping Point. And I enjoy books about Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. My father introduced me to history at a young age, and learning about the lives of these influential figures has instilled in me an appreciation for positive thinking. They’ve also instilled the belief in me that an exceptional work ethic can help you to achieve anything.”

Getting together as a family is also a very important for all family members. Dandrea and his cousins grew up skiing, but about five years ago they switched to snowboarding, generally going to the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania to enjoy the slopes. The past couple of years the family rented a house there for quick weekend get-a-ways.

“We also grew up on the water in the Atlantic City area, and we enjoy surfing and wake boarding,” said Dandrea. “Getting together with my family is a major part of our enjoyment. We enjoy being together both in and out of the business.”

The produce industry, he believes, is a bootstrap business that requires gut instinct mentality.

“It’s a rewarding industry and it requires exceptional attention to detail,” Dandrea added. “For the past few years our food-safety program has evolved to a phenomenal level, and we’re hiring more and more people to work in our food-safety and traceability sectors.

“In order to move forward in this business you have to be aggressive with food safety and traceability,” he continued. “Long term, it’s about profitability. The better your systems and infrastructures, the more profitable you can be because you’re not wasting your time going back making corrections. And time is money.”