(UPDATED COVERAGE, Dec. 10) Bland Farms’ new chief executive officer envisions new ways of marketing the sweet onion category.
Edmonson, who has a background of more than 25 years in the produce industry, including positions at Chiquita Fresh NA and Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., succeeds Bruce Peterson, former perishables executive for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Peterson served as Bland’s interim CEO since July 2011 and remains on the board of advisors.
Edmonson worked for Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands International Inc. in technical services before moving to Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte where he worked under a number of titles for 18 years, advancing to vice president of North American sales and product management.
He served on Bland’s three-member advisory board since 2010 and worked with president and owner Delbert Bland, when Fresh Del Monte had a Vidalia onion deal in McRae, Ga.
“I really enjoy the family and the people they have here,” Edmonson said. “I’ve been involved off and on with sweet onions for a number of years. It’s a very interesting category and clearly, the opportunity is tremendous, not only with the category, but with Bland, which has lots of room for growth.”
Edmonson declined to specify plans, saying it’s more a matter of moving ahead and taking advantage of new opportunities.
“There’s a number of areas where the category can continue growing across a number of distribution channels whether whole fresh, fresh-cut or new varieties that are coming out,” said Edmonson, who consulted for the after leaving Fresh Del Monte in 2005.
Bland said the family-owned and operated company needed an experienced procurement and operations veteran.
Bland“He’s a hands-on type manager who brings a lot to the table as far as knowledge of the industry,” Bland said. “When you’re a grower-shipper, there is a lot involved in infrastructure of the company because the majority of people who work for you work outside of sales.
“There are a lot of ins-and-outs of the business that takes experienced management to oversee. He has extensive experience in South America and Mexico and fits perfectly for that,” he said.
Bland said the leadership transition should go smoothly; Peterson was originally hired as interim CEO to help structure the company for future growth.
Edmonson said Peterson represented a vital addition in helping Bland initiate changes.
In his consulting business after leaving Fresh Del Monte, Edmonson worked for banana and melon companies and other non-produce food companies.