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Chiquita names new executives

Chiquita, which was recently acquired by Cutrale-Safra, has named two new executives: Andrew J. Biles will take on the role of CEO of Chiquita bananas and pineapples; and Darcilo Santos was named chief financial officer. The new announcement comes on the heels of news that the company will be closing its Charlotte, NC, headquarters.

Biles has held several positions with juice and food companies, including CEO of Gerber Emig Global Ltd. from 1998 to 2014, chairman of Frigo-Pak Gıda Maddeleri San. ve Tic. A.S. from 1998 to 2012, and chief operating officer of the Dole Food Co.’s European operations from 1992 to 1998. He also served as president of the European Fruit Juice Association from 2004 to January 2015, and as a director of Hanover Acceptances Ltd., an international private investment group, from 1999 to 2014.

Santos has over 25 years of experience working in the financial and banking industries. Since 2013, he worked at Safra Bank in São Paulo, Brazil, where he held several positions, including risk and finance executive, managing director and chief data officer. Prior to his work at Safra Bank, Santos worked for 13 years at Banco Itaú BBA, where he held senior positions in the areas of risk management, MIS and planning and credit portfolio management. He received an MBA in Global Banking from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Earlier in January it was announced that Brian Kocher, chief operating officer of Chiquita, assumed the position of interim CEO, succeeding Ed Lonergan; and Rick Frier, executive vice president and chief financial officer, announced his departure from the company.

Kingston hires CFO, further positioning itself for growth

Kingston Cos., the parent company of Kingston Fresh, has hired Cory Wengreen, a seasoned financial executive within the food industry, as the company’s chief financial officer.

“Kingston’s long-standing reputation in the industry and proven track record, along with the great people working here, were the key components of my decision to come on board,” Wengreen said in a press release. “I’m excited to join the executive team at Kingston and look forward to playing an integral part in the company’s commitment to responsible, strategic growth in the months and years ahead."  Cory-WengreenCory Wengreen

“Cory’s strong background, both in the produce and cold storage side of the industry, make him an ideal addition to our team," Kingston Fresh President Ken Nabal said in the release. "We added a lot of talent to the team in recent years and this is the natural step for our plans in 2015.”
Wengreen, who holds an MBA and is also a C.P.A, brings over 20 years of financial and operational leadership. Before joining Kingston, he served as CFO and treasurer at Royal Ridge Fruit & Cold Storage, an agriculture production and food processing company headquartered in Royal City, WA. He and his family will be relocating to Kingston’s corporate offices in Idaho Falls, ID.

“At Kingston, we are heavily focused on positioning our company for further success," David O. Kingston, chief executive officer of Kingston Cos., said in the release. "I am extremely proud to have a person of Cory’s pedigree join our executive team. His extensive financial background in the produce sector combined with his strong operational management experience will be extremely beneficial as we continue to focus on growing our food businesses.”

Fresno Food Expo returning to celebrate bounty of SJV for fifth year

California’s San Joaquin Valley, known as the largest food producing region in the world, continues to flourish as top growers and manufacturers come together once again to celebrate the region’s rich agricultural industry at the largest regional food show in the nation, the Fresno Food Expo.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the premier San Joaquin Valley food trade show, to be held July 22-23, 2015.7DII1385Mike Girazian of Union Bank, a sponsor of the Fresno Food Expo, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin hold a Happy Fifth Anniversary cake to celebrate the event’s fifth year. An estimated 150 local food production companies headquartered throughout the eight-county San Joaquin Valley will come together with approximately 750 key buyers from international, domestic, regional and local food and beverage buying channels traveling from around the world for an opportunity to discover what the valley has to offer.

In addition to the event, exclusive site tour opportunities the day prior to the show will offer key industry buyers an opportunity to learn more about the many facets that make up the valley’s burgeoning food industry.

Launched in 2011, the Fresno Food Expo was established as an economic development initiative by the city of Fresno in an effort to connect food and beverage manufacturers throughout the San Joaquin Valley to local, regional, national and international retail and foodservice buyers. In turn, companies would have the opportunity to increase their customer base, expand their businesses and hire more employees, resulting in economic growth for the entire San Joaquin Valley.

In 2014, the Fresno Food Expo shifted the show date from March to its current mid-summer July date — providing an even greater opportunity to include more than 2,500 fresh produce growers and packers in the San Joaquin Valley during their prime growing season.

Fresh produce grower participation grew by 25 percent in 2014 over the previous year, and continued growth is expected at the 2015 Fresno Food Expo.

Since its launch in 2011, the show’s participation and interest has increased by over 400 percent. The expo has evolved into a powerful platform for valley-based food and beverage producers to network, share industry relationships, create new business contacts and increase exposure to broaden their markets, all leading to increased sales opportunities for valley companies.  

The steady growth of the Fresno Food Expo has attracted a variety of grower and manufacturing companies, such as SunWest Fruit Co. — a family-owned grower-shipper business. In 2014, the company decided to join the Fresno Food Expo as both an exhibitor and sponsor, displaying great confidence in the Fresno Food Expo’s date shift and desired goal of adding a variety of fresh commodities from the valley’s diverse grower industry, including established cooperatives and ethnic producers.

“SunWest Fruit Company is proud to be among many successful growers, shippers and producers at the Fresno Food Expo that support this increasingly popular regional food show and recognize the impact it can have on the San Joaquin Valley,” Dean Thonesen, vice president of SunWest Fruit Co. Inc., said in a press release. “We look forward to highlighting the flavor and quality of our fruit while networking with produce buyers at this year’s show.”

For other companies, such as Nichols Farms — a third-generation family owned and operated business — the Fresno Food Expo provides an exciting opportunity to not only make key contacts, but launch and test new products through the show’s New Product Awards presented by Baker Peterson Franklin.

Also a new exhibitor and sponsor in 2014, the company signed on to introduce its organic pistachio line using the “Nichols Farms” label with the goal of meeting retailers who would help sell their product directly to the consumer and diversify their business; a new venture for one of the valley’s largest pistachio cooperatives who primarily sells in bulk and under private label.

“Nichols Farms was proud to join the ranks of those entering their new concepts into the New Product Awards,” Rudy Placencia, vice president of sales, added in the press release. “The valley is a powerhouse for innovation within this industry and we were excited to showcase our organic line at 2014 Fresno Food Expo.”

Buyers and exhibitors may pre-register for the 2015 Fresno Food Expo by visiting Qualified buyer registration is free. Exhibitors can take advantage of early bird discounts, a 40 percent savings available until Feb. 21, with public ticket sales launching in the spring.

The Fresno Food Expo New Product Awards will return in 2015 with categories of “Buyers Choice” and “People’s Choice.” The awards are open to all registered exhibitors who have a new food or beverage product or packaging concept that has or will be introduced to the market between July 25, 2014 and July 23, 2015. Applications will be made available to interested companies in early spring.

Exclusive site tours and a VIP Event for pre-registered buyers will kick off on July 22 and the 2015 Fresno Food Expo will be held on Thursday, July 23, 2015, at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center New Exhibit Hall.

N.J. agricultural convention set for Feb. 3-5

TRENTON, NJ — The 100th New Jersey State Agricultural Convention & Trade Show will be held Feb. 3-5 at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, NJ. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is hosting the convention in cooperation with the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey and Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

The first New Jersey State Agricultural Convention held after the formation of the state Department of Agriculture took place in 1916 and has commenced annually since then, according to a Jan. 6 press release from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

The 2015 convention and trade show will open Tuesday, Feb. 3, with educational sessions held by the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey. Highlights from the program will include sessions on ethnic and specialty crops in demand by chefs, growing vine crops in high tunnels, choosing tomato varieties, pest management for organic operations, and retail marketing and agritourism. There also will be in-depth workshops on food safety and basil downy mildew.

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher will open the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention with his annual State of the State of Agriculture address. Following that morning there will be a presentation on the Jersey Fresh Farm to School Program to assist farmers in partnering with schools to serve more local fruits and vegetables. The State Agriculture Development Committee also will hold a discussion on the Draft Soil Disturbance Standards for Preserved Farmland.

At 6 p.m., the Agricultural Youth Ambassadors will hold a reception, and at 7 p.m., New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is expected to speak at the Delegates Dinner.

On Thursday, Feb. 5, there will be updates from representatives from Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the 4-H youth speaker will address the delegates. In the afternoon, there will be a discussion on Palmer Ameranth Weed and election of State Board of Agriculture members.

The trade show will feature vendors and representatives offering a wide range of agricultural products and services.

FreshXperts names new chairman, owner, associates

FreshXperts, a leading consulting group for the fresh industry, has added three new team members and appointed a new chairman. Jonathan Raduns has joined the organization as an owner, and Michael Gretz and David Pennington have joined as associates. Anthony Totta, a founding member of FreshXperts and former vice chairman, was named chairman of the board of directors, replacing Ron Pelger.

The announcement follows on Jonathan-Raduns-Head-Shot-300Jonathan Radunsthe heels of news last spring that FreshXperts named PJ Petrillo as administrator and general manager, tasking her with the job of handling strategic planning and day-to-day operations for the organization. Petrillo has implemented many positive changes since joining FreshXperts, including development of a new mission statement and an intensive vetting process for all new FreshXperts partners. She is also responsible for the oversight of the organization’s leadership committees.

“As FreshXperts’ new general manager, PJ, brought administrative gifts that we found crucial to lead the company in the right direction — to our next level of innovative achievement," Totta said in a press release. "She has done just that, which resulted in the acquisition of our newest FreshXperts.PJ-PetrilloPJ Petrillo

“As our client base expands and our consultancy grows, we want to make sure that we continue to provide our clients with the same high level of personal attention and customer service that they have come to expect from our team of FreshXperts," he said. "Our owners, associates and affiliate members work collaboratively to offer competency in nearly every area of the fresh industry, providing cohesive, comprehensive solutions to our clients’ business challenges.”

“FreshXperts is looking for the right partners to join us in our expansion, not just any partners,” Petrillo said in the release. “We believe that we’ve found the right kind of partners in Jonathan Raduns, David Pennington and Mike Gretz. They are experienced and professional team players, and their unique experiences and skill sets will prove valuable additions to the FreshXperts team.”

Anthony-Totta-Head-Shot-300Anthony TottaRaduns is a retail marketing and merchandising consultant, serving growers, shippers, grocers, foodservice operators and independent specialty retailers. He was previously an associate member with FreshXperts and recently has attained ownership status.

Raduns consults with his clients about merchandising, training, operational, and reinvention strategies that are designed to grow their businesses, limit shrink and drive gross profits.

“I am so pleased to be expanding my role with the organization as an owner," he said in the release. "I look forward to working with the other FreshXperts to help our clients operate their businesses more efficiently and profitably while minimizing waste.”

Mike-Gretz-Head-Shot-300Mike GretzRaduns previously held positions with Wegmans Food Markets and Betters International Food Corporation. He earned a food marketing and distribution degree from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Gretz joined FreshXperts as an associate. He provides strategic market research, marketing and consulting services to the produce and food industries. He offers retail audits of grocery stores, with an emphasis on the produce aisle, and conducts trade surveys. Gretz also supplies historical data related to space and pricing.

“I will be working with FreshXperts to provide a conduit between growers and grocery,” said Gretz. “By looking at the available data in a given area, I help my clients to make informed, strategic decisions that are supported by good research.”

David-Pennington-Head-Shot-300David PenningtonGretz was formerly the president and chief operating officer of Produce for Better Health Foundation. Moreover, he has held positions in marketing, sales management and market research with several large consumer packaged goods companies.

Pennington, another new associate for FreshXperts, provides business coaching, and brings to the table 30 years of management experience. He works with companies to assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify pressure points and strategize how to move businesses ahead. Pennington helps businesses work through cash flow issues, address communication difficulties, and find and train employees. Additionally, he advises business owners about how to achieve balance between work and home life.

“A business can rise no higher than its leader is able to take it,” said Pennington.  “The leader is the ceiling. I look forward to working with leaders in the produce industry to raise the ceilings of their organizations.”

Totta, a founding partner in FreshXperts, was named chairman of FreshXperts. He has more than 30 years of experience in fresh produce procurement, supply chain management, retail sales, purchasing, wholesale development and distribution. He maintains relationships with many of the industry’s largest grower-shippers and works with produce companies and grocers across the globe.

FreshXperts is a full-service advisory team for profitable, sustainable growth in fresh foods. Its consortium of consultants shares over two centuries of fresh produce industry experience. More information about FreshXperts is available at