(Feb. 17, 12:20 p.m.) A produce growing and distribution veteran has joined specialties importer Southern Specialties Inc.

Tim Meissner, who most recently was director of sales for River Ranch Fresh Foods, Salinas, Calif., and worked for more than two decades for Supervalu Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., became Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties’ chief operating officer in mid-February.

“His experience in many sectors of the produce supply chain, and professional management style, make him an excellent fit for our team,” Robert Colescott, Southern Specialties’ owner, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

Meissner succeeds Gary James, who left Southern Specialties’ chief operating officer position in July to become vice president and chief operating officer of L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C. Meissner moved from California to join Southern Specialties’ Pompano Beach staff.

Meissner said his River Ranch experience helped him understand the growing, shipping and processing side of the business, and that knowledge prepared him for the Southern Specialties position.

“River Ranch was great experience, and I loved the people there,” Meissner said. “This move was solely about opportunity. This came at the right time. I feel over the course of my career, this was the exact type of position I was looking for. To do that, had to understand both sides of the business. This opportunity presented itself at the right time for me with the skill sets I have learned to bring value to Southern Specialties.”

Through overseas grower investments, Southern Specialties imports and markets asparagus, snow peas, sugar snaps, trimmed French beans, tropical fruits, blueberries and other specialty items through its Southern Selects, Paradise Tropicals, Fiesta Fresh and Today’s Gourmet labels. The company has distribution centers in Pompano Beach, McAllen, Texas, and Los Angeles.

Meissner joins Southern Specialties as COO