Caitlin Tierney Discusses Growth and Strategic Shifts in New Role with Mastronardi Produce®
CASTROVILLE, CA - I love a good making-the-jump story. There are those that envision what it would be like to walk in another person’s shoes, and then there are those that actually take the leap. Settling into her new pair of shoes is Caitlin Tierney, who crossed over from the buy-side to become Mastronardi Produce® West’s Business Director of Western Operations earlier this year.
“The biggest surprise for me is how similar the sales and purchasing roles are,” Caitlin reflects when I ask about what might have shocked her the most about the new role. “Our KPIs are comparable, if not exactly the same! We are all trying to service our customers and give them the best shopping experience possible. So, while I might be in a different space, I’m still wearing my selling shoes.”
That is not to say, however, that the jump hasn’t come with its bumps: Before Caitlin now is a new clientele and new tasks to accomplish for a well-recognized SUNSET® brand.
“Everyone out West knows who Mastronardi Produce is for our specialty brands and PMA Parties, but we are so much more than that. Now, with the company’s keen focus out on the West, we are going to showcase what we were originally known for out East when the company started more than 70 years ago: Hydroponic tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. It might sound basic, but our emphasis on quality and service will earn each PO to be able to grow our footprint out West to mirror what it is out East,” she tells me.
When I ask about how her retail experience serves to help further these expansion plans, she looks back on when she as a buyer said no and what she, now as a supplier, might say to change her own mind.
“It’s been an interesting challenge for me to set myself, these self-reflections. I considered myself a strong but fair buyer, so now I feel that if someone could convince me, I could convince anyone,” she laughs. “Being on the procurement side of produce for 15-plus years, you think you know a thing or two about our supply chain. All the years of me being ‘stern’ with my suppliers, thinking my salesperson could change the world if they wanted to, or if I yelled a little louder maybe they would hear me more clearly, has come back to me. It simply isn’t as easy as that. And now, seeing this side of the business and all the things that are out of your control due to weather, transportation, a disease like rugose, a national ad, or a program launch, all play a huge role in the ability to supply a customer perfectly.”
Of course, it helps to be truly passionate about what it is you are selling, and that Caitlin has in abundance.
“When talking to others outside the produce industry, I state Mastronardi Produce is the Tesla of produce. The company is drenched in innovation, pouring energy into advancing technologies in the way they grow; the research and development they surround their seed varietals with; and their out-of-the-box, go-to-market strategies on branding and packaging,” she shares. “I just couldn’t say no to the opportunity to build that out West! On top of that, I get to work beside the Elon Musk of Produce: Paul Mastronardi. All you need is one conference call with Paul, and you will be instantly inspired.”
The pièce de résistance, though, Caitlin says, lies in the people she has had an opportunity to connect with in this new space of the industry.
“Being on the retail side only allowed me to meet one side of the coin in most cases. Buyers, just like suppliers, sometimes don’t talk to each other, whether due to competition or simply being too busy. Now, in my new role, I get to meet all these new produce people and it’s like meeting a best friend for the first time—we share produce ‘war’ stories and laugh,” she reflects. “My favorite part of my job is most definitely getting to know the cool kids in retail and foodservice that in the past I only saw from a distance.”
And as she closes that distance, I have no doubt we will continue to see exciting things from Caitlin as she walks this new path. Meanwhile, we will certainly keep an eye on where those new steps are headed.