The halo of leadership for Delano, Calif.-based Wonderful Citrus is changing.
Zak Laffite. chief sales officer, will be the new president of Wonderful Citrus on Jan. 1, succeeding David Krause.
Krause, who joined the company when it was named Paramount Citrus, has been president of the company for 20 years, and will move to a newly created role of advisor to Stewart Resnick, chairman and president of The Wonderful Co., according to a news release.
Wonderful Citrus, part of Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Co., owns, cultivates, and harvests fresh citrus from 60,000 acres, Paramount Citrus officially became Wonderful Citrus in mid-2015.
The company’s brands include Halos mandarins, Wonderful Seedless Lemons and Sweet Scarletts red grapefruit from Texas.
“Zak approaches this role with a deep understanding of our business, and a unique talent for working cross-functionally with our employees, retailers, and grower partners,” Resnick said in the release. “David will be missed by the entire Wonderful Citrus family, but I’m thrilled he has agreed to remain on in an advisory capacity and I look forward to Zak leading our business well into the future.”
Krause said he has enjoyed being part of the growth of Wonderful Citrus, with Halos becoming an established popular consumer brand. The company debuted the mandarin brand in mid-2013, and Krause noted its growth, along with the category, over the years.
“You think about where it was 20 years ago versus where it is today,” he said. “Along that way, when we had a really special journey with the brand, building a consumer brand like the Halos.”
When Krause began, he said Paramount Citrus had an orange and lemon business in California only. Now Wonderful Citrus grows and markets fruit from California, Texas, Florida and import markets, representing nearly every citrus variety in domestic and imported fruit, he said. Krause said the Resnick’s ownership has allowed the company to invest in its brand in a big way, and Krause sees continued growth.
“The Resnicks have been very gracious and allowing me to stick around and but yet slow down a little bit, and that matches with some of my personal desires to do a few other things,” he said, noting his involvement in his own farm. “It is time for me to get out of the way and let (Zak and the team) take this business to the next level.”
Krause said that Laffite has much experience through various positions at the company, which he joined in 2004.
“There’s almost nothing In the business that he hasn’t done, perhaps short of driving a tractor,” Krause said. “Given that expertise and exposure that he’s had, there isn’t much of this business that he doesn’t know very intimately.”
Laffite was born and raised in Honduras, and his father owned a citrus farming operation. Laffite’s responsibilities at Wonderful Citrus have been broad, including senior director of product management and strategic planning, vice president of field operations and product management, and chief operating officer.
“If you are an ambitious person, somebody who enjoys being in this sort of fast-paced environment, there couldn’t be a better place to work,” he said.
Challenges in the future include building on the foundation established under Krause’s leadership.
“You could say the last decade has been about us growing and then climbing to a position of leadership within the industry, and I think from here on out it’s going to be about sustaining some of those challenges, maintaining our position and evolving,” he said.