Kroger veteran joins CMI Orchards as VP of marketing

George Harter has joined CMI Orchards as vice president of marketing. Harter will take the reins from Steve Lutz. Earlier this month it was announced that Lutz is shifting into a strategic role with the company.

Harter brings more than 20 years of retail produce operations and management experience with the Kroger Co. During his career at Kroger he held a number of management and supervisory positions. Most recently Harter served as the produce and floral merchandiser for the 186 stores of the Atlanta division of Kroger. Prior to moving to Atlanta, Harter held the same position at QFC stores in Seattle.George-HarterGeorge Harter

“Understanding how to succeed in the retail environment is absolutely critical to our success,” Bob Mast, president of CMI, said in a press release. “Apples have become one of the most complex categories in the produce department. With so many new brands, packages and varieties we really need to bring successful strategies to our retail partners with proven programs that drive sales. That’s exactly what George was able to do during his career at Kroger and we’re very excited that he’s now bringing his experience, energy, leadership and strategic thinking to CMI and our customers. He will be a terrific resource working closely with our retail customers to identify new growth opportunities.”

“It is so exciting to join the amazing team at CMI Orchards,” Harter said. “I look forward to making great contributions to such an outstanding company.

“Kroger was very good to me in so many ways, providing numerous opportunities to learn, grow and lead for over 20 years," he added. "I look forward to applying the successful principles I learned at Kroger to leading the marketing team at CMI.”

Harter said the apple category has changed dramatically in just a few short years, making the challenges and opportunities for retailers larger than ever. “The evolution of products and packaging in apples is really quite amazing,” said Harter. “I’ve seen it from a store level perspective. I’ve come to appreciate how critical it is to find the intersection between continuing the success of established apple varieties, and creating growth by building consumer awareness for spectacular new apples like Ambrosia, Envy, KIKU and Kanzi. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to bring my retail experience to CMI’s strong customer base, helping them realize new opportunities to drive sales in the apple category.”

Mast said that hiring Harter was the culmination of a process that started over six months ago. “We take a lot of pride at CMI in being able to develop innovative programs with our retail partners that bring long-term growth in the apple, pear and cherry categories. Whether it’s new retail solutions, category analysis, product assortment or unique display tools for our newer branded programs like Daisy Girl Organics, we want to be in a position to be a valued and trusted advisor for our customers. Based on the long term success George had at Kroger we’re convinced that he is the perfect leader for our team and will be a wonderful advisor for our customers."

Harter said during his career at Kroger he was very aware of CMI Orchards. “As a retailer, I’ve seen everything under the sun in the produce department. Over the years I became a big fan of CMI. They not only have the strongest product lineup but I observed that CMI has outstanding ownership, management and marketing. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work at Kroger and to now join the team at CMI.”

Harter will be relocating from Atlanta to the CMI Orchards headquarters in Wenatchee, WA, beginning work on April 3. He holds a master's degree in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan and a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Cincinnati. He is passionate about spending time with family, reading, and leading an active lifestyle and is looking forward to enjoying the many outdoor activities that the Northwest will offer.

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