( Graphic by Amelia Freidline )

The Packer’s 10th annual Women in Produce issue celebrates eight industry leaders who are working tirelessly to contribute to their orgs’ success and increase consumption of fresh produce.  The profiles within highlight the stories of these women — discussing their leadership styles and explaining how they became involved in their current roles.

Rena Montedoro has an aura of excitement and energy about her that makes you want to jump on board whatever she’s driving.

The 145 members of Crunch Time Apple Growers, Wolcott, N.Y., were counting on this infectious enthusiasm when their organization hired Montedoro in 2017. 

A former advertising executive and magazine publisher, Montedoro had no professional experience with apples.

“We as an organization certainly took a chance on that, but we know apples. What we really wanted was a talented marketer,” said Joel Crist, Crunch Time’s board chairman.

There’s just something about putting on your wellies and going out and seeing your product on the trees and meeting your farmers. Their love goes into those apples, their families for five or six generations.

The organization’s members are New York’s exclusive growers of the proprietary SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples. Together, they want to make these apple brands the signature apples of New York.

But they needed the help of a marketing expert.

“I honestly mean this, but it feels heaven sent to me. I learned to work very quickly in advertising firms and publishing, and the job kind of married that with my love of food,” Montedoro said. 

“When I go into the packhouse and smell the smells, I’m in my element. It was serendipity but also the right place to land.”

Sales doubled between 2017 and 2018, and that’s likely not just because trees are maturing and crop volume is increasing. 

As Crunch Time’s vice president of sales and marketing, Montedoro has built an online community of consumers who rally around the two apple brands. 

She’s done a fabulous job of bringing the grower base together to become a combined force in the marketplace.

She’s published a recipe book, partnered with Tough Mudder race events, conducted consumer sweepstakes and giveaways, utilized bloggers, created media kits and orchestrated events.

“Rena creates content that is just stunning, with only a partner and relatively low budget,” Crist said. 

“She’s done a fabulous job of bringing the grower base together to become a combined force in the marketplace.”

In the past 180 days, the SnapDragon brand had 6,900 online “engagements,” mostly comments on Facebook, but also interest shown Instagram and Pinterest. While Montedoro continues working with retailers to do samplings, attractive store displays and other promotions, she and the growers know they can’t leave all the marketing up to retailers. The apple category is crowded, and competition is fierce to get your brand noticed.

“For verbiage, imagery, packaging and displays, I look at who’s growing these apples, and how do we tell those stories? Because that’s what the consumer wants, to know the source,” Montedoro said. 

Her favorite part is the source.

“There’s just something about putting on your wellies and going out and seeing your product on the trees and meeting your farmers. Their love goes into those apples, their families for five or six generations,” Montedoro said. 

“It keeps my energy very high. And it’s very emotional."

Related content:
Women in Produce — Julie Escobar
Women in Produce — Stefanie Katzman
Women in Produce — Britt Raybould
Women in Produce — Brianna Shales
Women in Produce — Leslie Simmons
Women in Produce — Kathy Stephenson
Women in Produce — Katiana Valdes

 
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