Food industry veteran Bill Byers has been named the new chief operating officer/chief financial officer for Fruit Patch Inc., Dinuba, Calif.

He joins the company Nov. 21, succeeding Doug Reader who has accepted the position of CFO with South Beach Diet, Bonita Springs, Fla.

Fruit Patch names chief operating officerByers, who comes to the California grower-packer-shipper from Foundation Partners Group LLC, Tampa, Fla., where he was the CFO, is no stranger to Fruit Patch. He worked with the company in 2009 and 2010 and served three years on the board of directors.   

“I’m excited about being here, very excited,” Byers said. “I was involved in developing some of the strategies, many of which have been executed quite well by Doug and the team.”

Those strategies include a better balance in the portfolio of customers and in terms of using the Fruit Patch facility year-round, he said.

In recent years, Fruit Patch has added pomegranates and citrus to its inventory.

“My intention is to continue to execute that strategy and grow this business,” Byers said.

“Bill is well-known to our growers and the Fruit Patch staff, so I couldn’t ask for a better replacement for Doug,” Wil Garland, chairman of the Fruit Patch board of directors, said in a news release.

In addition to his administrative duties, Byers will be actively involved in sales and marketing, he said.

“Because of the deep integration of sales with the packing operation, I’ll clearly have a heavy influence with what goes on in sales,” Byers said.

Byers has spent more than 30 years in the food and beverage industries. He has worked for Tropicana Products Inc., Bradenton, Fla., and also had senior level finance positions with Pillsbury, a division of Minneapolis, Minn.-based General Mills, and Beatrice Foods, Beatrice, Neb.

Reader said Fruit Patch is a company with “a nice track record now of successes for our growers.”

“The customers are very pleased that we’re delivering high-quality fruit to the industry with a very solid grower base,” Reader said.

Other changes at Fruit Patch 

Tina Haga, a senior member of the Fruit Patch sales staff, has been promoted to export sales manager, succeeding Vince Balakian, who left the company.

Maria Saldana will be joining the Fruit Patch sales staff as a citrus account manager Nov. 28. A San Joaquin Valley native who has nine years in citrus sales, Saldana comes to Fruit Patch from Los Angeles-based Old West Sales, Reader said.

“Because citrus is now a strength of Fruit Patch, and we’re finding a number of growers who are interested in having their fruit handled here, we wanted to bring in a very seasoned and talented salesperson to ensure we’re going to maximize their return,” Reader said. “Maria fits that bill perfectly.”

Another new face at Fruit Patch is Shawn Corley, director of grower relations. He spent the past 17 years with Supervalu Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., where he was most recently senior buyer for stone fruit, citrus, pomegranates, kiwifruit and persimmons.

Fruit Patch is marking its 35th anniversary this year.