( Graphic by Amelia Freidline )

Katiana Valdes is a self-confessed produce nerd.

“When I go visit friends or family in different states or cities — it is kind of a joke over the years because I always want to go see their local grocery store and see the produce department and really get an idea of what’s going on in the market and see what my competitors are doing in that market,” she said. 

“That kind of thing excites me.”

It didn’t take long for Valdes to fall in love with the produce industry and began her path to produce nerdiness.

Upon the urging of one of her parents’ neighbors who worked at Del Monte at the time, Valdes applied for a marketing job with the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company after graduating from Notre Dame University.

Valdes, marketing director for Crystal Valley Foods in Miami since February 2017, spent nearly nine years at Del Monte from 2008-17.

“It was a great entrance to produce for me, and I fell in love with the industry there,” she said. 

There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to hear about Katiana’s success and point to her as a leading woman in our industry for many years to come.

During her time at Del Monte, Valdes had marketing positions within the company, including marketing coordinator, marketing manager, business development, marketing manager and senior marketing manager.

While her family had some produce connections — uncle Jay Rodriguez is owner of Crystal Valley Food — Valdes said she never thought she would get into the produce industry. Her perspective now is that marketing food and produce is “awesome.”

“It is something that people will always need, and you can actually feel good about selling it,” she said. “So I love being in it.”

Valdes said her journey in the produce industry gives her constant learning experiences.

“Things are always changing — I find that aspect super exciting about produce.”

“Some of the best learning experiences for me, beyond being able to see the different departments throughout a company and really understand how the whole process works, is getting out and visiting with customers and seeing their locations,” she said. 

“I think it’s really when you start to understand the whole picture, and you learn about their pain points, and how you can help make their job easier,” Valdes said.

It also is important, she said, to visit the farms and really understand the products she is selling and marketing.

“You get a totally different picture when you’re able to do that,” she said.

“So I think that’s been some of the most educational parts of my job beyond actually sitting with some of my mentors and co-workers and really learning about their careers and what they’ve done.”

Valdes said it has been an honor to be a part of Crystal Valley’s strong growth over the past couple of years. 

“We have so many more great things coming,” she said.

Things are always changing — I find that aspect super exciting about produce.

Rodriguez said Valdes has a diverse skill set that benefits the company’s efforts in new business development, new product development, social media, press releases, travel and trade show planning, product packaging and more.

“Katiana is a person you can depend on for just about any task that is needed,” he said.
 
“She is smart, organized, knowledgeable and extremely loyal.”

Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce NA, Inc., Coral Gables, Fla,, said Valdes is that rare individual who exceeds expectations and realizes her full potential.

“Katiana’s incredible work ethic, innate humility, and ability to inspire her peers and subordinates made her into the accomplished leader she is today,”  Christou said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to hear about Katiana’s success and point to her as a leading woman in our industry for many years to come.”

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Women in Produce — Britt Raybould
Women in Produce — Brianna Shales
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Women in Produce — Kathy Stephenson

 
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