Snack Feature: PRO*ACT's Max Yeater - From the Field to the Boardroom
In the latest edition of AndNowUKnow’s print publication, The Snack Magazine, we spoke with PRO*ACT's President Max Yeater, exploring the dynamic distribution company's latest ideas, initiatives, and much more. Check out The Snack article by clicking here, or read the full article below:
From the Field to the Boardroom
“I’d like to say it’s about working smarter not harder. But, my first experiences in this industry were born from hard work. It’s essential,” Max Yeater tells me. “I try and lead by example by showing people that I’m willing to get down and dirty. It is all of us in this together. Everyday.”
“My mom taught me the importance of hard work. She was a single mom, raising 2 kids. She sold her house so we could go to college. My mom has been my main influence and now being a parent, I understand what a wonder children are and the value of sacrifice and hard work. My son and daughter have changed my outlook,” Max smiles. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Max has come a long way since his days as a bird dog working in Salinas, California. The industry veteran began with his feet in the fields as a produce inspector and now calls his most recent role home, as President of the distribution giant, PRO*ACT. I sat down and spoke with Max and listened to his journey from the beginning, where the roots took hold.
“From the beginning I have always had a fascination with the business. I knew I was destined for produce,” Max tells me. “Even in those early days, I knew I was building a foundation to succeed in the industry.”
Max came into PRO*ACT 3 years after the company was established in 1991, and with the strength and determination of the PRO*ACT team, the company has grown from a network of 6 distribution partners to the 50 it has today.
“I have been fortunate enough to be a part of our strategic growth as a company, while witnessing us come into our own,” Max notes. “When I first got on the desk buying produce, I’d call different suppliers in the industry. They’d ask ‘Pro-what?’ But, today the industry sees our value,” he laughs.
As the company continues to evolve, PRO*ACT is taking its value proposition to the next level by making the move into retail distribution.
“Our distribution network is uniquely positioned with our ability to reach 100% of the major North American markets, and to respond to the demand from retailers for fresher product,” Max reflects. “We have 50 independent local companies bringing 50 great entrepreneurial ideas to the table. Pulling this program together and creating what we’ve created is nothing less than amazing. It’s our #1 value to the entire value-chain. To have that for a supplier, for a fresh manufacturer, is worth its weight in gold.”
PRO*ACT has 3 different types of customers that make up its PRO*ACT Value Chain - distributors, suppliers, and end users. PRO*ACT’s value comes in its ability to get products to every major market and providing those distribution services for suppliers.
“The power of the network is our ability to bring together different facets of the industry and lead them towards the future,” Max notes.
While fresh produce has always been the perishable of choice for PRO*ACT, the company has expanded into other fresh products to bolster the retail initiative.
“We have some great minds here,” Max tells me. With a senior executive team that is passionate and creative in their thought processes, it’s no wonder PRO*ACT continues to raise the bar. “We look at every idea like it’s a good idea and it helps us better the business and the work culture. I know that I want to work at a place that I look forward to coming to everyday. It’s important to me that everyone here feels the same.”
“I’ve sat in their seats and I understand the challenges they go through. We still have a job to do, but I say let’s have a really good time doing it. Create a good culture and you create a good team environment,” he smiles.
Demand from the consumer has also changed, he tells me, and we are changing to adapt to the evolving consumer environment. “Today’s consumers want the ‘who, what, when, where and why,’ of their fresh produce. They want the knowledge behind product sourcing and how the item is delivered, packaged, and presented,” Max notes. “As the dialogue between the consumer and retailer changes, retailers are looking for different channels for delivering fresh product.”
Through PRO*ACT’s Greener Fields Together initiative, in-hand with its 70 distribution locations, the company has been able to address challenges ranging from locally-grown demand and logistics, to organic produce growth, and availability. Greener Fields Together is a collaboration of environmentally responsible parties, including farmers, distributors, retail locations, and foodservice operators, who have come together to make steady, measurable improvements in sustainability and food safety practices through all levels of the produce supply chain. The unique capabilities of this initiative alone, offer the industry a resource for enhancing their sustainability platforms and communicating their efforts to the consumer.
The company has spent more than 20 years tirelessly building its distribution network, allowing the company access to customers 6 to 7 times a week, where other channels typically cannot. As PRO*ACT continues forging ahead in both the foodservice and retail industries, the company hopes to continue building its distribution network while also staying true to its roots and drive towards innovation.
“It is an exciting time for us as we move forward and further advance our North American business strategy,” Max states. “As we continue to align with the goals of our foodservice and retail partners we will always be looking for that next opportunity to develop their programs and enhance our own.”
It isn’t hard to see that the PRO*ACT crew continues to bring a unique and beneficial culture to its organization, capabilities, and collaborations.
“Work hard, play hard,” Max tells me.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.