COBBTOWN, Ga. —  Marking its third decade in sweet onion growing and sales, Plantation Sweets has brought in a retail sales veteran to help market its brand of sweet onions.

Rick Stock, who has more than three decades of retail produce merchandising experience, joined Plantation Sweets in early March as the grower-shipper’s general manager of sales and marketing, a new position.

Plantation Sweets adds retail sales veteran

Rick Stock has joined Plantation Sweets as its general manager of sales and marketing.

The Cincinnati-based Strock, who has worked for companies such as Supervalu, Nash-Finch, Fleming and Castellini, said he is eager to help market Plantation Sweets’ Vidalias.

“This is a unique opportunity,” he said. “People wait all year for the Vidalias. This season presents an opportunity for us.”

Stock was director of produce for the Anniston, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind., operations of Supervalu Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., among other jobs. 

From 2008-10, he also worked as Northeastern representative for the U.S. for the Yakima-based Washington State Soft Fruit Commission.

Ronny Collins, Plantation Sweets’ president and chief executive officer, runs one of the larger Vidalia onions growing and packing operations, and used to sell sweet onions to Stock when Stock worked for Fleming Foods.

“We got to talking and he said he could use someone on his staff full-time,” Stock said. “The opportunity was perfect for me and my family.”

Collins said Stock should be a big asset to Plantation Sweets’ marketing.

“He will do a lot of things other than sales,” Collins said. “He will concentrate on sales during the season but will do a lot of follow-through things with our retail customers after the sale. That’s something we are adding to our program. We have been a little weak in that area in the past.”

Collins said Stock will conduct store checks and eye sales of Plantation Sweets’ Vidalia onions and its other fruit and vegetables.

Plantation Sweets this season has made significant increases in planted acreage for its sweet corn, sweet potatoes and watermelon.

The grower-shipper doubled its sweet corn acreage from 300 acres to 600 acres, and bumped up its watermelon and sweet potato acreage from 300 acres to 500 acres each.

“This sizeable increase in acreage brings more for us to sell,” Collins said. “It’s hard for two people to handle that. We needed a third person.”

The second person on Plantation Sweets’ sales desk is Tina Collins, who last season joined as the firm’s director of sales and marketing.

Stock said he plans to support Plantation Sweets in all its marketing efforts, including retail merchandising initiatives and participating in food shows and trade shows.

“I plan to call on clientele I personally know and those that have done business with Ronny for years,” Stock said. 

“We want to support marketing initiatives and look for different ways to market our product line as we look at our strategy three to five years out. Ronnie and Tina and I plan to do some brainstorming and try to reposition ourselves in other areas for growth.”

In 2006, Plantation Sweets began diversifying its crops. It harvests its corn and watermelon from mid-June to early- to mid-July and ships its sweet potatoes after curing in late October.

Collins has 1,200 planted acres of Vidalias, up slightly from last season.