(April 16, 9:17 a.m.) Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. plans to release six premium salad kits this summer as the company revamps its sales and marketing department with an aggressive focus on consumer preferences — and at the same time is hiring a former marketing director to boost nonsalad sales.

“We’ve had this vision for about eight months to become much more of a marketing- and consumer-focused company,” said Ronda Reed, vice president of marketing for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. “We added a tremendous amount of positions in both marketing and sales strategy, and we’ve just completed all of our recruitment and doubled our staff in those areas.”

Chris Mayhew, former director of marketing for Monterey, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables, returned April 7 as senior new products strategist, leading the push for new value-added products.

Mayhew was unavailable for comment April 15. She and 70 Dole Fresh Fruit and Dole Fresh Vegetables marketers, strategists and executives were meeting to discuss the new salads and consumer-focused initiative. Reed, who spoke briefly by phone during a break in meeting, did not provide specifics about the salads.

NEW TO THE INDUSTRY

Three others joined the vegetable company’s marketing and sales in April; like many of the recent hires at the company, their experience is from outside the produce industry. President Ray De Riggi, who succeeded Eric Schwartz in March, brought with him two former colleagues from Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Inc.

The hires come at a time when a number of grower-shippers in California have been forced to reduce acreage and lay off people to cut costs in recent months.

“You can continue to reduce costs and try to ride it out or you can try to figure out what consumers are willing to pay on value-added items,” Reed said. “We decided to go that way because if you can market and come out with successful products, especially during hard economic times, when things turn around you’re much better off than if you cut costs and bury your head.”

Mayhew previously worked with Dole Fresh Vegetables for 17 years. She left the company in 2003, to join Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., as vice president of marketing. Her experience includes a background in brand building, product positioning, developing new product concepts through finished product sales, as well as consumer and trade promotions, advertising, public relations and evaluation, according to a news release.

CANADA, SUPERVALU

Two new sales strategy managers started April 14. Silvana Kocovski will oversee sales strategy for Canada, and Charlotte Kavanagh is a member of the Dole Fresh Vegetable’s group assigned to Supervalu.

Kocovski has more than a decade of experience in the consumer packaged goods industry, most recently as associate trade marketing manager for Church & Dwight Canada Corp., Mississauga, Ontario-based marketers of household products. She also worked 10 years for The Nielsen Co., New York, as an executive analyst, according to the release.

Kavanagh has expertise in category management in the consumer packaged goods industry, having worked at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta Sales and Marketing Co., most recently as associate business manager on its Safeway group.

Robert Hall also joined Dole’s marketing staff on April 14, as associate brand manager for value-added salads. He will be responsible for developing and executing the marketing plan, along with the development and rollout of related new products, according to the news release. Hall came from Colgate-Palmolive, New York.

Dole unveils salad kits, adds product strategist
Chris Mayhew