Garland Perkins ( Photo courtesy Oppy )

Garland Perkins has earned high praise as the U.S. retail solutions specialist for British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

Her responsibilities include creating presentations for occasions such as meetings with grower partners, visits with customers, and executive speaking engagements.

Data and insights are among her specialties.

“There’s no stone unturned for Garland. That’s the thing that we’ve always found to be most gratifying and heartening,” said Oppy vice president of marketing James Milne.

“She thoroughly enjoys diving into what would be deemed trickier or more involved projects that really in a sales and marketing company sometimes get lost or pushed to the side because we’re dealing with the day-to-day and trying to move the fruit out of the cooler as quickly as we can.

“But Garland’s got that real ability to take those projects on and build them into something that’s quite impressive and actually goes beyond the bounds of what we thought the projects were going to entail.

“Garland’s got a very distinct knack of getting to grips with the problem pretty quickly, or the project outline pretty quickly, and then developing it into something that is exactly what the sponsors have been looking for,” Milne said. “Most times she goes over and above.”

In addition to developing presentations, Perkins delivers them.

In August, she spoke about marketing to millennials at The Packer’s Midwest Produce Expo.

She has also presented to the executive group at Oppy and has been a leader in addresses to major retailers, Milne said.

Perkins has been with Oppy since 2012, the year she earned a master’s degree in agribusiness from California Polytechnic State University.

“I feel like that was a huge turning point in my career and in my life in general,” Perkins said. “My time at Cal Poly was really formative. It was the first time I moved somewhere where I didn’t know anyone, to do a new curriculum that I had really no idea what it was going to be like going into it, so it did challenge me in a lot of ways.

“It gave me a very different set of skills that I didn’t have going into it, whether that was the ability to be a critical thinker, the ability to bring structure to a task or project that’s so vague and there’s no real tangible ways of breaking it down, and then it also introduced me to consumer insights and statistical analysis and using those learnings to create targeted marketing strategies and promotions,” Perkins said. “That really was — and still is — a huge passion of mine, and I do that a lot in my role now.”

Customer interest in data and insights has been growing in recent years as the grocery landscape gets more and more competitive.

“Our customers are very receptive to that type of information,” Perkins said. “They want to hear that information, they want to learn, they want category insights more than ever before, and mostly because they’re being challenged every day on the front line by their competitors to have a better go-to-market strategy, whether that’s a better in-store presence, a better price point, a better engagement with the end consumer, in a lot of different ways, but retail insights appear to be more important to retail buyers and heads of produce and presidents of retail banners than ever before.”

Perkins expects that the broader produce industry will be able to benefit from data and insights as well.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to use all of this information that we have in our hands, and I don’t think we’ve figured out how to do that quite yet, so I hope that I can play a part in figuring that out and coming up with some creative ideas for how to use that,” Perkins said.

“I hope that a big part of that is actually turning the dial on produce consumption. I hope somehow we can use all this information to change the way people eat, legitimately. I really hope that I can play some part in that.”