Mark Murai is stepping down as president of the California Strawberry Commission to become vice president of strategy and development for Sunrise Growers Frozsun Foods.

Murai’s last day at the Watsonville, Calif.-based commission will be Feb. 22. He’s been president since August 2005 — at first on an interim basis, but quickly becoming permanent.

The commission’s executive committee plans to have a meeting on the leadership change Feb. 5, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director.

The position at Sunrise Growers is a new one for the Placentia, Calif.-based strawberry processor and marketer of frozen fruit and fresh strawberries.

“Mark is a results-oriented executive with exceptional agricultural expertise and strategic leadership,” Ed Haft, chief executive officer of Sunrise Growers Frozsun Foods, said in a news release. “We will draw on Mark’s knowledge of emerging farming and processing technologies, cutting-edge food safety and sustainability practices, and thorough understanding of berry industry dynamics to enhance our supply chain, product innovation, and most importantly customer satisfaction.”

“Through my years at the commission, I know that consumers seek a highly satisfying strawberry experience in both fresh and frozen products,” Murai said in the release. “At a time when berry consumption is on the rise, I look forward to building on the company’s strong momentum while finding new opportunities for growth and innovation.”

“I’m intrigued with how they’ve developed the fresh and frozen side of the business,” Murai told The Packer.

Sunrise Growers aims to expand its global presence, strengthen sourcing and sustainability programs, and accelerate new business plans.

At the commission, research was one of the highlights of his tenure, Murai said.

“Looking at the regulatory and environmental climate, we aligned our strategic initiatives with what growers need to be able to compete and be sustainable in California,” he said.

Murai's background is in strawberry production through a family business in Orange County, Murai Farms.