After helping break new ground with packaged salad in the early 1990s, Tom Browning is again furthering his career with value-added produce.

Browning joined R.S. Hanline, a Shelby, Ohio-based fresh-cut and value-added produce company, as director of sales and marketing for the retail products division. The division is new for the company, whose main retail customers are Wal-Mart, Supervalu, Kroger, Aldi and Loblaws.

“In my case, I’ve spent more than 20 years working with Kroger,” Browning said. “They’ll be one of my main focuses here.”

Browning was with Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International as director of national accounts until an April restructure, he said. He was vice president of national accounts for Fresh Express when Chiquita acquired the company in 2007, and then stayed on board with Chiquita.

Browning’s first break into the produce industry was just five years before joining Fresh Express, when he was vice president of sales and marketing of the eastern division for Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., from 1997 to 1999.

“It was really the infancy of packaged salads, and I was really able to sell packaged salads as a new item,” Browning said. “The quality we have today we really take for granted.”

Browning then left the produce industry for a three-year stint as national account manager for Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich.

“When I went to Kellogg’s, I really wanted to get out of something I thought was crazy,” Browning said. “But I’ve really grown to love it.”

That love for the dynamic produce industry was what brought him back to join Fresh Express.

Before all that, Browning started his career with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble as a unit manager right out of college. His first glimpse into the produce industry was with Coca-Cola, Atlanta, where he was director of sales planning and support, and worked closely with the Minute Maid brand.

“With Minute Maid I was involved with oranges, but definitely Ready Pac was the first one where I got recruited into produce,” Browning said.

R.S. Hanline’s status as a private company helped lure him, he said.

“The thing that attracted me here is that they’re a privately held, fast acting company,” Browning said. “I’ll be able to do a lot for key customers, and it’s very clear that’s where the growth is going to be.”

His first day with the company was June 29.

Ready Pac, Chiquita vet joins R.S. Hanline