As Tim Riley takes his position as the newest Produce Marketing Association chairman, his technology and operations focus could help arm the organization and industry in its fight for consumer attention.
Riley, president of The Giumarra Cos., says the industry needs to better compete for global and domestic consumer sales and challenge other food industries vying for the same share of consumers’ stomachs.
One of his goals is to help guide the industry as the PMA implements its strategic plan, which continues the PMA’s focus in strategic areas, including global trade and technology, he said.
As Riley worked to keep Giumarra, a Los Angeles-based grower-shipper, distributor, importer and exporter, at the forefront of technology and operations, he said the industry’s adoption of international networking, infrastructure and technology would benefit growers and their customers.
While serving on a PMA governance task force, Riley said he saw how improving global connections through technology could help his own company and be a bigger benefit to the industry.
Simplifying food safety standards was one of the opportunities of truly being a global industry, Riley said.
He pointed to the U.S. and European produce industries developing different standards, which is causing numerous and duplicative audits.
“I believe technology is a tool the industry needs to succeed,” Riley said. “We as an industry have been five to 10 years behind the consumer packaged goods industry in technology. Look at the technology those groups use, whether Coca Cola or Frito Lay. They’re ahead of us.
“We hear people in our industry complaining about how people will buy candy bars vs. grapes. If we want to truly go out there and compete, we need to play on the same scale, and we’re not quite there. Technology will enable us in the next five or six years to play on that scale.”
Riley said he plans to focus PMA’s attention on helping its members make better use of technology, which remains the baseline the industry needs to help build confidence and efficiency.
Riley said adopting technological tools, ranging from advances in food safety to modern back office systems, could help increase demand and change the way the industry distributes its products worldwide.
Riley’s grounding in technology and operations should help the industry as he succeeds chairwoman Jan DeLyser, said Bryan Silbermann, PMA’s president and chief executive officer.
Silbermann said Riley’s understanding of how technology is changing the industry and his importing-exporting experience are critical for the industry and PMA.
“Tim’s more introspective in some respects than Jan but brings a breadth of experience,” Silbermann said. “He’s very good at letting people give the best of themselves.
“He will take a lot of the lessons he’s learned as vice chairman and apply it to how he leads the board. He’s the perfect guy to be in the chairman’s seat when technology is playing such an important role in the industry’s future,” Silbermann said.
During the mid-1980s, Riley received information technology training in the U.S. Navy before developing communication systems between Giumarra and its Chilean exporters as a consultant.
In 1990, he joined Giumarra as a developer in grower communications. In grower services, Riley helped build a support system for Giumarra’s growing operations and external growers.
In 2002, he became vice president of grower and sales support, helping improve grower efficiencies. He also oversaw the company’s administration, human resources and technology. He advanced to executive vice president in 2010.
Throughout his career, Riley studied management and finance at the University of Michigan’s school of business and negotiations and human resources at Stanford University. He also completed the marketing and the executive training program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
DeLyser, vice president of the California Avocado Commission, Irvine, began working with Riley on committees with the Fresh Produce & Floral Council in La Mirada, Calif., about a decade ago.
“He’s a very smart thinker and works for a really innovative global marketing organization,” DeLyser said. “He’s great at building consensus. He’s very thoughtful in the questions he asks to create additional thinking amongst members of the group. He’s a very good and solid leader.”
Riley also has served on the council’s board, the board of the Center for Produce Safety in Davis, Calif., and on committees with the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.
In January, when Giumarra adopted a more formal leadership structure, Riley became president.
He succeeded Don Corsaro, who became chairman, and Corsaro’s son, John Corsaro, who moved from an executive vice president to chief executive officer.