(April 23) BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Grimmway Farms has reached outside the produce industry to bring in some experience to its category management effort and other marketing programs.

The carrot grower-shipper in January hired Phil Gruska, a nine-year marketing specialist for Sara Lee Baking in St. Louis, as vice president of marketing, a position that has been expanded to include a category management program.

Patty Boman, who had been vice president of marketing, is now the company’s marketing director and reports to Gruska.

Jeff Meger, Grimmway’s vice president, is Gruska’s immediate supervisor. Meger was not available for comment April 22.

Gruska, 39, said his baking experience would work well Grimmway’s category management efforts.

“In produce, it’s bringing some of that same approach to the consumers, making sure you deliver what they want,” said Gruska, who earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing at the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis.

“There’s a huge upside in that. Grimmway is a company that’s considered a No. 1 company, whatever business that it’s in.”

He said his shift to produce does present some challenges.

“I’m learning,” he said. “It’s doing something natural, pulling the product out of fields. The competition is there, too.”

He said category management programs are, in some cases, more advanced than in nonproduce sectors.