( Photo courtesy Rainier Fruit Co. )

You might call Andy Tudor a matchmaker.    

It’s the job of the vice president of business development for Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co. to match what the company’s growers are growing with what its customers are using, he said.

The matchups aren’t always easy. Tudor spends much of his time researching customers to find the right fit, and in recent years, as more consumer data has become available, that research has gone one step further — to study what consumers are buying.

“We can’t sell to the consumer directly, but we have to find the right retail partners with the right consumers who buy the products our growers grow,” he said.

Rainier’s salesmen “sell what is front of them every day,” he said, but the company also needs someone to look to the horizon and see what’s in store for the future. That’s where Tudor comes in.

He compares formulating a long-term plan to putting together a puzzle that “you try to piece together with the end goal of maximizing return to growers.”

“Ultimately that’s who we work for,” he said.

Rainier has a full-time team that offers guidance to retailers about what the company grows and what will maximize their categories, he said.

“We do a tremendous amount of data analysis specifically for retailers,” Tudor said.

Sometimes, that might mean advising a customer to stock an apple Rainier doesn’t grow “because it makes money for the category,” he said.

As someone who grew up on a farm and has 30 years of industry experience, Tudor knows what he’s talking about.

He studied agriculture economics at Washington State University and then worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a commodities inspector.

“I got a good background in all the commodities that we grow,” he said.

He got into sales and marketing in 1987 handling apples, pears and cherries at now-defunct Holtzinger Fruit Co. 

In 2001, he opened an office in Selah for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos., which became the sales agent for four Washington orchards.

He went on to Yakima-based FirstFruits Marketing of Washington before moving to Rainier in 2011.

Blake Belknap, Rainier’s director of domestic sales, has known Tudor for about 20 years and called him “a breath of fresh air.”

“He is a really good collaborator,” Belknap said.

Tudor tends to glean “bits and pieces from lots of different folks” in determining the direction the business should take, he said.

He has a “we-first” attitude rather than a “me-first” attitude, he said.

Tudor also excels at studying data and “growing incremental business in places where we already had a very mature partnership, but he also is really good at looking for new opportunities and developing new relationships,” he said.

“As vice president of business development, he’s been great at that.”