Dennis Christou got his first taste of the produce industry during an internship while he was studying for his master’s degree in international business at the University of South Carolina.
When Christou, 53, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA, was an intern, he found a lot to like about the produce industry.
Courtesy Del Monte Fresh Produce NADennis Christou, Del Monte Fresh Produce NA “I realized that few other industries were going to offer me the ability to work in a fast-paced environment with global reach, while working alongside some of the most interesting people I had met up to that point,” Christou said.
Before joining Del Monte in 2004, Christou worked for 18 years at Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands International when it was based in Cincinnati, the last five as vice president of marketing for Europe.
Both industry giants have provided Christou with big career opportunities. At Chiquita, he led the launch of the brand in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Highlights of Christou’s Del Monte tenure have included the launch of a pan-European advertising campaign, working on the launch of several products and the creation of the Del Monte vending program, in which the company pioneered bringing fresh produce to venues typically dominated by junk food.
One of the things that’s helped Christou achieve those and other goals, he said, has been his ability to surround himself with the right people, and to provide them with the tools to grow into successful managers in their own right.
“To do that, you need to share your passion for what you do, share with them your own experiences and provide an environment where they’re encouraged to explore the limits of their capabilities,” Christou said.
Christou himself was fortunate to have such a mentor — Joe Cole, who now serves as vice president of Del Monte-Asia Pacific.
“He was the one who guided me around the many particularities of this business and inoculated me with his passion for the produce industry.”
After a quarter-century-plus in the produce industry, Christou said the things that drew him to the industry in the first place have remained largely unchanged — as has his enthusiasm.
“The fundamentals that attracted me to the produce industry still remain the same,” he said. “I can honestly say that I still enjoy the global reach, fast pace and produce people as much as I did when I first started as an intern.”
One addition Christou would make to his intern self’s list is the chance to pass along what he’s learned.
“The one thing I particularly enjoy now is sharing my experience and helping younger employees grow to be the next generation of successful produce professionals.”