CMI Orchards Appoints George Harter as New Vice President of Marketing
WENTATCHEE, WA - As company staple Steve Lutz bids farewell to his role as Vice President of Marketing for CMI Orchards, another industry veteran is stepping in. The company is welcoming 20-year Kroger executive George Harter to fill this head marketing role.
“It is so exciting to join the amazing team at CMI Orchards. I look forward to making great contributions to such an outstanding company,” said Harter, who made clear his appreciation for his experience at retail. “Kroger was very good to me in so many ways, providing numerous opportunities to learn, grow and lead for over 20 years. I look forward to applying the successful principles I learned at Kroger to leading the marketing team at CMI.”
Harter worker for Kroger for over two decades in various retail produce operations and management positions. Most recently, Harter used his experience as the Produce and Floral Merchandiser of Kroger’s Atlanta division, which contains 186 stores, according to a release. Prior to his time in Atlanta, Harter held the same position at Kroger’s QFC stores in Seattle.
“Understanding how to succeed in the retail environment is absolutely critical to our success,” shared President Bob Mast upon Harter’s appointment. “Apples have become one of the most complex categories in the produce department. With so many new brands, packages, and varieties, we really need to bring successful strategies to our retail partners with proven programs that drive sales. That’s exactly what George was able to do during his career at Kroger and we’re very excited that he’s now bringing his experience, energy, leadership, and strategic thinking to CMI and our customers. He will be a terrific resource working closely with our retail customers to identify new growth opportunities.”
Familiar with those changes that the apple category has experienced, Harter added that this dramatic shift is part of what makes the category so exciting for retailers. “The evolution of products and packaging in apples is really quite amazing,” he said. “I’ve seen it from a store level perspective. I’ve come to appreciate how critical it is to find the intersection between continuing the success of established apple varieties, and creating growth by building consumer awareness for spectacular new apples like Ambrosia™, Envy®, KIKU®, and Kanzi®. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to bring my retail experience to CMI’s strong customer base, helping them realize new opportunities to drive sales in the apple category.”
Harter’s joining the company was the culmination of a process that started over six months ago, Mast explained, adding, “We take a lot of pride at CMI in being able to develop innovative programs with our retail partners that bring long-term growth in the apple, pear and cherry categories. Whether it’s new retail solutions, category analysis, product assortment, or unique display tools for our newer branded programs like Daisy Girl Organics™, we want to be in a position to be a valued and trusted advisor for our customers. Based on the long term success George had at Kroger we’re convinced that he is the perfect leader for our team and will be a wonderful advisor for our customers.”
Harter has been familiar with CMI Orchards over his career, he said. “As a retailer, I’ve seen everything under the sun in the produce department,” he explained. “Over the years I became a big fan of CMI. They not only have the strongest product lineup but I observed that CMI has outstanding ownership, management, and marketing. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work at Kroger and to now join the team at CMI.”
The company shared that Harter will be relocating from Atlanta to the CMI Orchards headquarters in Wenatchee, Washington, beginning his new role on April 3. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan and a Bachelor in Business Administration degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is passionate about spending time with family, reading, and leading an active lifestyle, and is looking forward to enjoying the many outdoor activities that the Northwest will offer.
Congratulations to George Harter on this next step in his career, and here’s to many more years of innovation at CMI Orchards!