Appearing in plays and on Broadway, Mark Hanks likely didn’t give produce much thought.

Because produce salespeople have to make a lot of cold calls and presentations, the vice president of sales and marketing for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., sees acting, along with accounting skills, as good training for people entering produce sales.

The road to his role at one of the country’s largest citrus grower-shippers and importers began while attending University of California-Santa Barbara, where he studied theater and performed in plays in New York and Los Angeles.

Acting in commercials and theatrical productions, Hanks performed with Anthony Hopkins and appeared in an episode of “The Paper Chase” TV series.

It was a fun decade of his life, but it wasn’t profitable.

In 1979, Hanks received an offer to coordinate shipments of Chilean fruit to Canada throughWestpac Imports, Santa Barbara, Calif., and had a side deal selling a boatload of onions to an Italian importer.

He also sold grapes and melons to Loblaws whose chief executive officer and produce directors and buyers taught him the retail side of the business.

After Westpac moved to Los Angeles, Hanks started and ran Western Pacific Fruit Trading Co., where he imported Argentinean citrus into Canada and Chilean grapes and tree fruit into the U.S.

Getting stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam after returning from a Florida vacation in 1988 convinced Hanks to leave Southern California.

The week before moving his family to Florida, Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., Middleboro, Mass., asked him to be manage North American sales from its Vero Beach, Fla.-based fresh division through Paul Genke, Ocean Spray’s then national sales manager.

Hanks, who is now 60, advanced to national sales manager and in 1997, when most of the Ocean Spray staff moved to DNE after Ocean Spray licensed its fresh citrus brand to DNE, Hanks remained at Ocean Spray working with DNE on its imports and category management programs.

In 2004, Hanks joined DNE two weeks before a series of hurricanes devastated Florida growing regions and damaged DNE’s offices.

He attributes his success to his many industry and retail mentors and open-door support from shippers’ owners and management who taught him to be flexible and adaptable and to welcome change.

“You have to surround yourself with a lot of good people in the sales, operations and accounting departments,” Hanks said.

“I don’t think anyone can run this kind of demanding business by themselves.”

Genke, director of sales and marketing for The Packers of Indian River Ltd., Fort Pierce, says Hanks has a flair for marketing.

“He’s the one that really put together Ocean Spray’s promotional program for grapefruit,” Genke said.

“He worked it, promoted it and made it a success. He is very good at understanding the promotional side of the business and retailers’ wants and concerns and need the flexibility and adaptability to change with the different crop years.”