The Finest of Fresh: Meet 5 Robinson Fresh Employees on Produce Business’s 40 Under Forty List

The Finest of Fresh: Meet 5 Robinson Fresh Employees on Produce Business’s 40 Under Forty List

Every year, Produce Business recognizes rising stars of the produce industry. This year, I am proud we have five Robinson Fresh employees included on their 40 Under Forty list. They, along with the other winners, exemplified community involvement. They have demonstrated an extremely high degree of giving back to our customers and communities that have helped them reach their current positions.

We pride ourselves on hiring top talent, and the recognition of these individuals is evidence of their commitment to excellence in their work, their relationships with customers and others they interact with every day, and to our industry.

Read through these excerpts from their Q&A with Produce Business—along with a bonus question from our team—and see why these Robinson Fresh employees are so deserving of this honor.

Meet Andrew Casserly, director, East region

“Always shoot for the moon, because if you miss, at least you will be among the stars.”

Andrew began his produce career at C.H. Robinson as an account manager. He quickly developed a diverse customer base that accelerated his knowledge and expertise in the produce industry. After several promotions and relocations, Andrew was promoted to director of the East region for C.H. Robinson in 2019. He is responsible for managing a group of account managers and helping them build business and new opportunities. When he’s not working, Andrew enjoys sports, spending time with family and friends, and coaching youth sports.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?

2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years we will ever experience in our lifetimes. I truly believe adversity brings out the best in people. It will be very interesting to see how several businesses are able to respond to the disastrous pandemic. It will undoubtedly have a long-lasting effect on life as we know it, but how we respond to this challenge is paramount to our successes in the industry.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?

Put a stronger focus on off-grade produce. Consumers need to be educated that if a piece of produce is not visually perfect, it still has value. If we offered that product at a discount, we can increase consumption through several different avenues.

Robinson Fresh Q: What’s one positive for the produce industry you’ve seen come out of COVID-19?

The increase in teamwork across the industry as a result of COVID-19 is nothing short of incredible. Everyone in the industry feels personally responsible to ensure they are doing their part in helping the world get through this. This will become the new norm going forward in the industry, and it is certainly for the best. The amount of pride across the industry is at an all-time high right now, and it is certainly well deserved. From growers to packing houses, and truck drivers to retail/foodservice/wholesale, thanks for helping us all shine.

Meet Tony Hinderer, retail vertical manager, Managed Procurement Services

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” – James Baldwin

Tony started with Robinson Fresh right out of college as a business analyst. After significantly increasing service levels, helping to develop replenishment software, and generating additional case revenue, he was promoted into account management. His responsibilities continued to grow. Today, he is the retail vertical manager for Robinson Fresh’s Managed Procurement Services. He designs new supply chain solutions to bring produce to retail. His goals are to increase efficiencies, decrease costs, and grow new channels to drive growth and profitability for not just Robinson Fresh but the produce industry overall. Outside the office, Tony enjoys the great outdoors. He can often be found hiking, bouldering, trail running, boating, or skiing.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

I would advise anyone new to the produce industry to learn not just about the product, but the broader industry. There are so many opportunities to work in this industry. Exploring these early on in your career helps you better understand the bigger picture.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

A big change in the industry has been the rise of new channels. Historically, people would often get their produce at their local supermarket. Today, consumers buy produce through a variety of channels, such as convenience stores, small box retail, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture shares, meal kits, and e-commerce. This change will continue to accelerate while consumers expect the same levels of service, quality, availability and choice. Working on this complexity and change is exciting and will require innovative solutions.

Robinson Fresh Q: What’s one positive for the produce industry you’ve seen come out of COVID-19?

All of the trends in supply chain that were happening pre-pandemic are happening faster. Localization of supply, demand for speed and flexibility, surge capacity, and volume at retail have all been pushed into hyper speed. The industry has become stronger as a result.

Meet Rob Kinsella, director, retail

“He or she who rides the bull can never dismount.”

As a key leader within Robinson Fresh/C.H. Robinson, Rob heads the company’s retail business within the C.H. Robinson enterprise. He’s involved in building mutually beneficial supply chain services that support the ongoing initiatives of direct and indirect retail customers. For the past 15 years, he has held various roles across both companies that have allowed him to collaborate, innovate, and experiment with temperature controlled supply chain practices and methodologies. Currently, he leads a team of account managers who engage many of the world’s largest retailers. Establishing lasting relationships with key stakeholders in the grower/shipper, retail, wholesale, foodservice, and carrier communities has allowed him to consistently deliver high-quality results while always driving innovation and efficiency into the fresh industry. Rob spends plenty of time outside hiking, golfing, mountain biking. He also enjoys cooking, grilling, and listening to local live music.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?

I would like to see those involved in creating regulations find the appropriate balance between safety and productivity. I would love to find a way for the produce industry across the entire supply chain to more cost-effectively provide families the opportunity to consume more fruits and vegetables. I would love to see retailers continue to push the boundaries of the ‘in-store’ experience, with a produce-first mindset. Also, I want the industry to find a way to grow locally (year round) as a way to not only reduce food miles but also generate economic growth in local communities.

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the produce industry by the public at large?

The consumer has been educated that the quality of the products must be higher if it is sourced locally. While supporting a local economy is important, high-quality products can come from anywhere around the world with a great supply chain. The key is to understand the best growing and sourcing region for that product tied to seasonality, as that will ultimately dictate the quality of the product.

Robinson Fresh Q: How do you go the extra mile for your customers?

Our customers are facing new and unique challenges just like we are. I continue to focus on pushing our conversation to mid-range planning/strategy, even though the industry has been forced to operate in the now. By staying educated on the market, commodities, transportation trends, and consumer behavior, I do my best to educate our customers and encourage them to experiment within their own supply chain. Many of our key stakeholders have had their 2020 strategies interrupted and instead of trying to ‘react’ every day I try to share my findings to support their existing challenges. At the end of the day, we all have to deliver a high-quality product and experience for our customers and the end consumer, but by stretching our relationships to look into 2021 and beyond, we will enable longer range planning.

Meet Joshua Noonan, senior manager, supply chain services

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain

Joshua started with C.H. Robinson/Robinson Fresh immediately after college on the produce transportation side of the business where he won several awards and participated as a panel speaker at industry events. He was promoted to managing strategy for the company’s produce distributors, assisting them transport inbound produce more effectively for foodservice clients. From there he took on a new role, managing the company’s preferred distribution network, a group of regional produce distributors serving same-day delivery to retail, foodservice, and c-store customers. Under his management, the team has grown the company’s network more than 300 percent, expanded it internationally, and increased collaborative education by hosting and participating in produce distributor summits. In his free time, Joshua likes hosting backyard BBQs, golfing, and playing basketball with his son.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?

The industry focus on improving the use of the 30 percent or more of produce wasted and solve the global fight against hunger.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

The role of digitalization and analytics within the marketplace has become the new normal. When I started 13 years ago, I spent a good amount of my day waiting by the fax machine. Fast forward to today and orders flow electronically between trading partners, while capturing real-time data allowing customers to manage and shift their business quicker than ever before.

Robinson Fresh Q: What’s one positive for the produce industry you’ve seen come out of COVID-19?

If anything, the pandemic offers us the opportunity to step out of the historical ‘norm’ and collaborate with customers, suppliers, and distributors. From here, we can provide new complex solutions to solve shifting supply chain challenges. For those of us fascinated with the thought of building new and creative supply chain solutions, the last six months have been an intriguing challenge.

Meet Travis Phelps, key account manager

“Go the extra mile… it’s never crowded.”

For the past 15 years, Travis has been part of the produce industry. His various roles at C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh include regional commodity manager and account manager. He’s worked with processors and retailers in the West and Rocky Mountain Region, growing businesses and forming life-long relationships. He was also the leader behind bringing the company’s Misfits program to life—the largest program of its type in the country that started the conversation around how to better market and sell cosmetically ugly fruit, combatting food waste throughout the supply chain.

In 2017, Phelps left Robinson Fresh to take the position as vice president of sales for Veggie Noodle Co. in Austin, TX. He was part of a dynamic and creative team focused on bringing Veggie Noodles and zoodles to the world. In 2018, he rejoined the team at Robinson Fresh as a key account manager and now focuses on bringing new innovations to the marketplace, including the Daily ‘Dos Avocado program that uses exclusive technology to offer four ripened avocados at different stages. Travis enjoys golf, cooking, and travel.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

It took me longer than it should have to put myself out there and push new ideas out and get projects moving. I would encourage anyone that is just starting out to be as proactive as possible in their career. Take chances and make sure their voice is heard. I wish I would have done that from day one.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?

We need to continue to focus on helping growers to move the whole crop. As an industry, we still have too much of a myopic view of what “good product” needs to look like and what we choose to put on the shelves for our end customers. The world is embracing fruit that isn’t perfect and shoppers are realizing that often cosmetically ugly fruit can taste better, cost less, and is a responsible choice when making their purchasing decision. We need to re-evaluate our specs and continue to focus on fresh more than sizing and appearance.

Robinson Fresh Q: How do you go the extra mile for your customers?

Going the extra mile means never going for the easy answer when challenges arise. It’s about avoiding the “no” by finding a solution whenever possible. We work in a dynamic industry with a lot of variables that are often out of our control. I have found that there is usually a way to leverage creativity, your network, and available resources to find an acceptable alternative rather than simply “no.” Another way I go the extra mile is helping to drive business through the entire supply chain. Sales and account management roles require more than offering quality product and ensuring consistent supply. Going the extra mile in these roles means finding ways to get products into shoppers’ baskets through innovations and marketing concepts. Shoppers are always looking for something new, unique, and different. If we can offer a product or promotion that solves a problem, creates a need, or generates demand, then everyone wins.

Congratulations to this year’s rising stars

Robinson Fresh has problem solvers and fresh experts like these around the world, all working hard to connect, optimize, and improve logistics while providing high quality fresh produce, year-round.

Connect with one of our experts if you’re ready to work with a great team—like the 40 Under Forty recipients you got to know in this post—to grow your fresh produce program.

Michael Castagnetto

Michael Castagnetto - President of Robinson Fresh

Michael Castagnetto is the President of Robinson Fresh. He has built and sustained relationships with growers, suppliers and customers with a goal of helping them build, develop and evolve their supply chains. Michael uses his almost 20 years of experience and knowledge to open up global perishable supply chains and continue to build relationships with those in the fresh produce industry. His specialty is complex supply chains with a focus on fresh produce and integration of logistics to drive growth for customers.

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