As Jan DeLyser becomes chairwoman of the Produce Marketing Association, she’ll find members yearning to see her success promoting California avocados extended to other fresh fruits and vegetables.

One of them is outgoing chairman Rich Dachman, vice president of produce for Sysco Corp., Houston.

“Being the marketer she is in what I consider the most successful commodity we’ve seen for increased consumption and popularity, I’m ecstatic about her taking those lessons learned and progressing to other products,” Dachman said.

DeLyser is vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.

“We want to take up best practices from what they’ve done and get some of the secrets out of her to figure out how we’re going to move forward with our industry,” Dachman said.

DeLyser was The Packer’s Produce Marketer of the Year in 2011. This year the state’s avocados continue to set the pace. The Fourth of July surpassed all previous Super Bowls and Cinco de Mayo holidays with 85.4 million pounds consumed, she said.

“We looked at items normally consumed during traditional American holiday events and developed recipes that fit nicely with avocados,” DeLyser said.

“The goal is to make it mainstream to be consuming them whether it’s Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day.”

In September, DeLyser went to Washington, D.C., to discuss the broader implications for produce marketing at a meeting of the National Restaurant Association’s Food & Healthy Living committee.

“The MyPlate program is a great step in the direction of getting fruits and vegetables to the center of the plate, and we all benefit,” she said.

“That’s important, but so are usage ideas throughout the day. When you think about breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and events, there are opportunities.”

“Jan’s marketing background can help us translate trends,” said Lorna Christie, PMA executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“She’ll look at the programs and services that we offer to ensure we are providing the guidance our members need.”

Strategic planning

As PMA chairwoman, DeLyser will join her predecessor Dachman and her expected successor — Tim Riley, executive vice president of The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles — in developing the trade association’s next strategic plan.

The current plan has been in effect for four years.

“It’s an important discipline for an organization not only to develop a plan but revisit it over time,” DeLyser said.

“The 2008 planning process resulted in a change to our governance structure at PMA, which really opened the doors for so many opportunities for members. We were able to broaden the scope of leadership in various committees and activities.”

“On this next plan, collaboration is the key. We’ll continue to work with Western Growers. We’ve got solid relationships with FMI, NRA, Alliance for Food & Farming and the Center for Produce Safety. We’ll build on PMA’s public affairs outreach. The focus is on delivering member value.”

Following Erickson’s footsteps

DeLyser is the second woman to chair PMA. The first was Janet Erickson, executive vice president of purchasing and quality assurance for Lake Forest, Calif.-based Del Taco Inc., in 2005-06.

“It doesn’t feel like a milestone,” DeLyser said. “It just feels like how it should be.”

Getting women into leadership roles — at any level — is an ongoing PMA objective.

“PMA is expanding their program this next year with opportunities for women in our industry,” Dachman said. “We have not only our Foundation for Industry Talent but just finished our second year with the Emerging Leaders program. It’s brought a lot of mid-management into the fold with an understanding of how they’re going to progress.”

“PMA has done a great job of being inclusive and creating some pathways for women to grow,” DeLyser said.

Career path

DeLyser began her own career as a territory manager with The Packer. She joined the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council as public relations director in 1979, and later became executive vice president.

In 1993, she became the Los Angeles-based Western merchandiser and director of marketing for Coachella, Calif.-based Sun World International Inc., before moving to a sales position at Los Angeles-based Westlake Distributors Inc., selling avocados, grapes and kiwifruit.

She’s been with the California Avocado Commission since 1998 when she started as director of marketing, a new position at the time.