Editor's Note: The article that follows is part of the 13th edition of The Packer 25 Profiles in Leadership. These reports offer some insight into what drives successful people in produce. Please congratulate these industry members when you see them and tell them to keep up the good work.


Scott Schuette has stayed plenty busy in his first few years with Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets.

Now the vice president of produce, Schuette has been involved in dozens of store openings, built a produce staff, facilitated the move from third-party distribution to self-distribution, and gotten a new Fresh Thyme produce distribution center up and running.

Schuette is involved in day-to-day store operations because the company is still young, but he also supervises procurement.

“That’s definitely the most important side of what I do, is to be an active part of the team at the distribution center, making sure that our brand-new warehouse, our brand-new partnerships, our brand-new buying team, everything that’s new at Fresh Thyme is off to the best start it can be,” Schuette said.

The company will slow its pace slightly next year, with 15-20 new stores expected, but Fresh Thyme will also revisit older stores.

Its farmers market format has leaned on bulk produce, but the company will give more space to value-added items in the future.

Fresh-squeezed juice is another growing area for Fresh Thyme, which now offers 24 fresh-squeezed juice and infused water options.

CEO Chris Sherrell, a key mentor for Schuette, described his vice president of produce as someone always looking for opportunities and contemplating how to capitalize on them.

“Scott’s got this relentless pursuit of excellence,” Sherrell said. “He is by far his own biggest critic. Scott never stops looking at things harder, in different ways, in different angles, certainly looking for the new thing, understanding the importance of staying relevant.

“He is a self-motivator,” Sherrell said. “Very rarely is he not already working on something that we bring to him.”

Now that Fresh Thyme is self-distributed, Schuette plans to expand the local produce program and explore hyperlocal options as well.

With a much higher store count than a few years ago, Fresh Thyme can also work with more suppliers across the U.S. than it could before.

“A lot of those eyes have opened now, and (we) have a lot of access to another whole assortment of products that meets or exceeds the volume that we’re currently doing and allows us to be better, stronger partners with the vendor community,” Schuette said.

Sherrell expressed confidence that Schuette is the right person to lead Fresh Thyme’s produce category into this next phase.

“He’s an unbelievable pleasure to work with,” Sherrell said. “Scott kind of sets the example every day, coming to work, working hard, not complaining.

“We all have bad days, but Scott probably hides his a little bit better than most because he’s very consistent,” Sherrell said. “He’s just a great team member.”

 
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