CMI names regional marketing manager

Apples Marketing business updatesDon Patella has been hired as regional marketing manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International, said Steve Lutz, CMI’s vice president of marketing.

Lutz said Patella works on merchandizing for the company.

He began work in the first week in November.

Patella has more than 20 years of retail experience at The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, most recently as a regional merchandiser covering four of the retailer’s divisions spanning 14 states.

In addition, Columbia Marketing International opened a 5,000-square-foot packing facility this fall, which allowed the company to convert an existing facility to be fully organic.

“The new facility is located in Baker Flats (Wash.). The converted facility was the company’s McDougall facility in Wenatchee. Basically, we have two new facilities up and running now,” Lutz said.


Crunch Pak fortifies marketing expertise

Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak has promoted Krista Jones to director of brand marketing and innovation.

In her new role, Jones will continue to manage marketing activities including advertising, public relations, special events, and social media. She will also direct new product development efforts.

Jones previously had positions at Nordstrom and Cutter & Buck.

In addition, the company hired Jenni James as a business analyst to further its market research capabilities.

“James joins Crunch Pak with a wealth of analytic experience, having spent the last few years as a professor of agribusiness at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where she taught classes as well as managed custom research projects,” said Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

This is a new position at Crunch Pak that reports to the senior product manager.


Jack Brown hires trio of staffers

Jack Brown Produce, Sparta, Mich., hired three staff members at the beginning of the fall 2014 season.

Tom Labbe was hired to handle domestic sales accounts.

Maria Rivera was brought on to head up the export department.

In addition, Tom VanHouten was hired as logistics coordinator. He previously managed the local Crop Production Services facility.

Company president John Schaefer is pleased with the expertise each has brought to the company.

“They are doing an absolutely spectacular job for us,” he said.

Also, the company is working on fine tuning its facilities.

“We have done quite a bit of revamping the equipment and adding new pieces over the last several years and things are now working very well,” Schafer said.


Rainier Fruit realigns sales staff

Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., has restructured its sales program.

The new program allows interested sales assistants to work towards account manager positions, and eventually to a sales position, said Andy Tudor, director of business development.

The company has also moved a key production manager, Shea Carroll, formerly the company’s organic blueberry manager, into the sales training program.

“Allowing people the opportunity to grow from within has a positive infectious attitude on the entire office,” Tudor said.

In addition, work has started on another new packing line at the Selah plant, set to be ready for fall 2015.

Additionally, marketing director Suzanne Wolter left the company, and her duties will be dispersed to current staff.


Riveridge changes QA, logistics roles

Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing made a few personnel changes this fall, said Don Armock, president.

Aaron Debski was hired to replace Jeff Armock in his role of quality assurance. Debski has a background in operating packing operations and also will be trained to handle food safety for the company.

Jeff Armock now schedules and plans packing and logistics for the company.

Mitch Brinks also was hired as an account manager. He comes to Riveridge with a background in apple sales.

Brinks worked previously for Jack Brown Produce, Sparta, Mich., and The Kroger Co., Cincinnati.

In addition, the company has continued to upgrade its packing facility to include more internal defect sorting.

“We’re on track to have almost all the fruit run over a line with internal defect sorting, which is a goal we started four years ago and have made good progress with,” Armock said.


Sage Fruit adds three employees

Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash., has added to its staff over the last few months.

The company recently hired Steve Kuebler and Craig Barnes to its sales department.

In addition, Joe Aronica was hired to the company’s marketing staff.

Kuebler and Barnes work in the company’s Yakima location, while Aronica is in Erie, Pa.

In addition, the company is working to upgrade its facilities.

“We will be installing a brand new packing line at one of our facilities at the end of the year. This will enable all of our apple packing facilities to work with the same technology, which should create synergies between our packinghouses,” said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing.


Stemilt fires up Piñata marketing

Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., is set to market its Piñata apple again this year, said Brianna Shales, communications manager.

“It’s only available for a short time, through April, and it’s our signature variety,” Shales said.

The company has seen a lot of good movement so far, and has tropical-themed promotional materials to support sales through the winter.

“We have tropical boxes to highlight its flavor characteristics,” Shales said.