Then his wife Lynda got involved, and they had a 20-something overnight success on their hands.
“I was planning on being a passive investor and hold on to things for my kids,” Stewart, 76, said of his initial agriculture holdings. “But it was interesting.”
From the offices of the Los Angeles-based holding company now known as Roll Global, the Resnicks planned the strategy for Paramount Citrus Association, acquired in 1981, and Paramount Farms, acquired in 1989.
They both knew they wanted to organize vertically, which was not the norm 32 years ago. They also wanted to bring a brand mentality to the fruit and nut operations, Stewart said.
Lynda, 70, said vertical integration allowed for strict quality control.
Stewart said it also provided quality control in the supply chain so retailers and other Paramount customers were as pleased as consumers were with the Wonderful brand products.
“Stewart and Lynda Resnick have pioneered a new approach to agriculture by transforming commodity goods into some of America’s most trusted household brands,” Paramount Citrus president David Krause said. “They are innovators in our industry.”
Krause credited marketing maven Lynda Resnick’s creativity as the foundation for the brand power of Wonderful products, which are credited for increasing overall category sales.
Lynda admits she thrives in the creative mindset.
“It’s like Picasso said: ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.’ Pom was divine intervention, though,” said Lynda, the creative force behind brands such as Pom Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios and Cuties clementines.
The Resnicks sold the Cuties brand to former partner Sun Pacific and launched Wonderful Halos branded clementines for the 2013 season.
Developing and marketing brands into popular icons takes a lot of money, Stewart said. He said many in the produce industry don’t grasp the difference between a name and a brand.
“People see what we have done and they say, ‘Let’s do that, too.’ But they can’t because it’s too expensive,” Stewart said. “It’s a tough sale to retailers, too. Wonderful Pistachios took us 20 years.”
Paramount president Krause said it is obvious the Resnicks’ approach works.
“The Resnicks have created a new playbook for farming companies in the San Joaquin Valley,” Krause said.
That playbook includes a marketing staff of more than 200 who help retailers position the Resnicks’ products. It also includes commitments to sustainable energy at their facilities.