(Feb. 19) FRESNO, Calif. — Crown Jewels Marketing has leaped from its solely West Coast-based operation to devoting a stronger presence along the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Crown Jewels announced Feb. 12 the addition of former Washington Apple Commission manager John Sander to its management team as the director of fresh category sales. He will be based out of Wilder, Ky.

Sander mostly recently worked with Sage Marketing LLC, Yakima, Wash. Sander was hired at Sage last June.

He was a category development manager with the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission before it was dissolved last year. Sander joined the commission in December 2001, overseeing category management in the Midwest and Northeast.

Sander also worked as the southeast regional sales and category manager for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce in Cincinnati.

“Crown Jewels has been working on building stronger recognition in the Eastern market place,” said Steve Poindexter, managing partner in Crown Jewels Marketing. “We feel that, with his experience, John has the ability to build that bridge.”

Crown Jewels’ staff members say they are excited to grow its national presence.

“We can now offer immediate assistance to help our customers,” said Atomic Torosian, chief executive officer. “John’s addition…will benefit the retailers and wholesalers we work with as well as increase our competitive edge in the market place.”

Sander’s efforts will focus on developing customers programs through category management, account planning and other areas.

Another top priority will include working to establish a presence with produce councils in the East Coast region.

Sander is looking forward to his new responsibilities.

“This gives me an opportunity to exercise my full range of my abilities,” Sander said.

The four-year old business continues to grow, with expected revenue in excess of $100 million this year.

Crown Jewels markets stone fruit, table grapes, strawberries, California pears and apples, citrus, cantaloupes, watermelon, honeydews, as well as a vegetable program out of Nogales.