Mast started out with the worldwide distributor of tree fruits as director of marketing before taking his current role in 2007. He credits Mike Hambleton, his predecessor as vice president, for initiating him into the world of the grower-shipper.
“He did a great job of acclimating me to the supply side of the business and mentoring me in marketing,” Mast said. “Being in a support position and then transitioning taught me the importance of what a team could assist me with as a leader.”
The strength of CMI’s management and staff was challenged by the deaths of two founding partners — Glady Bellamy and Bob McDougall — in the past two years, and the retirement of a third, Nick Buak, in August.
“Glady was someone the whole industry looked up to,” Mast said. “Our resolve was sorely tested when that happened. The team just responded outstandingly. These were two of our best years at CMI.”
Apples total about 75% of CMI produce and the company has a substantial presence in pears and cherries. It accounts for more tha 10% of all Northwest cherries — red, rainier and organic. CMI also exports California-grown citrus, grapes and stone fruits to international clients. It imports cherries and apples from Chile-based Unifrutti, and pears under the Gaucho label from Argentina.
Other global alliances contributed to CMI’s deepening involvement with managed apple varieties in the past six years or so. Ambrosia was the first, followed by Kiku and Kanzi.
“We were able to get a bit of a head start on the managed varieties,” Mast said. “Ambrosia is just starting to get to where we’re able to do nationwide distribution, and it’s been exciting and fun to educate consumers and retailers. It’s difficult to put a new variety out in a sea of what is typically 700 to 1,000 items in a produce department.”
The goal was to make those apples stand out, and CMI did so initially with shipper units that brought the fruit off a shelf and into the middle of the department. A unified look — logos, point-of-sale material — was crafted for each variety to make it recognizable anywhere in the world.