(July 28, 11:35 a.m.; UPDATED COVERAGE)

The general manager position at Enza International has opened the door to a beautiful new relationship for Dawn Gray.

After a year and a half at the Auckland, New Zealand-based company, Gray has accepted a position as senior vice president of sales, marketing and categories for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, Enza’s North American marketing partner for more than 50 years.

“As we’ve worked closely together over the past year and a half, we’ve found what I guess you could call a mutual attraction,” Gray said. “I’m also very committed to Enza, but I think the good news is that I will still have a very strong connection to them through The Oppenheimer Group.”

Indeed, Gray isn’t going anywhere just yet. She plans to stay with Enza until April.

During that time, she will work closely with her predecessor, Oppenheimer’s senior vice president Bob Dunlop, who plans to retire at the end of 2008.

Smooth transition

The extended transition may be unconventional, but Gray said she, The Oppenheimer Group and Enza’s parent company, Turners and Growers, want to ensure a smooth transition.

“We’re looking at a transition period of almost 10 months,” she said. “Turners and Growers is looking now to determine who will be the next general manager. We want to make sure that we have a person that’s going to carry forward with the same vision and plans and goals we’ve had over the last year and a half and that they have ample time to work with me.”

The transition’s timing also fits in as the new general manager would be taking the reins just before the start of the New Zealand season.

Under Gray’s leadership, Enza launched a new marketing strategy for its Jazz apple program in mid-May. The “Apples with Bite” slogan and materials feature an edgier persona and are targeted at young mothers who are interested in healthy lifestyles.

The new campaign gives the program a uniform look for all of its marketing areas worldwide and coincides with year-round availability of the apple variety.

Returns to Vancouver

Gray, a Vancouver native, has been involved with the produce industry since 1974. Before joining Enza, she was the executive vice president of sales and marketing at Surrey, British Columbia-based BC Hothouse Foods Inc.

She also served as president of the Central California Orange Growers Cooperative, Visalia, and has had sales and marketing positions at Seattle-based Vanguard International; The Autenrieth Co., Los Angeles; Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif.; and Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Enza manager becomes Oppenheimer sales chief