2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Jeff Helseth

Age: 31
Director of Sales & Field Operations
Minneapolis, MN

Helseth is a passionate, authentic, diligent industry leader. In less than seven years at Twist-Ease, he has continuously worked to quickly understand produce, retail, supply, and manufacturing industries, and now does the work of two positions. He began working with Twist-Ease during summer breaks from college, between 2009 and 2012. This time was spent traveling and setting up new customers. In 2014, he began managing shipping and receiving at the Twist-Ease warehouse full time. Later that year he was offered a salaried position in managing the company’s field operations and coordinating installs. During the past five years, his duties have expanded to include marketing work. He currently holds two titles with the company, director of sales and director of field operations.

In his position, Helseth manages new store setups and is the point of contact for store chain, banner, and representatives to discuss schedule, brackets, and logistics of Twist-Ease dispensers. He communicates the required raw materials to be purchased, product(s) to be assembled, and timing of shipments to the Twist-Ease team. He has created a strategic network of partnerships with bag companies, distributors, trade organizations, associations, and wholesalers. He hires, trains, and manages Twist-Ease installers (both employees and contractors) and is responsible for defining the policies and guidelines for all install members. He maintains and develops active customer databases with up-to-date information. He also works to define market strategies to support the company’s overall goals and objectives. He developed a marketing plan for Twist-Ease and oversees its day-to-day implementation including submitting and maintaining annual marketing budget proposals to accomplish the marketing plan and provide fiscal results to show return on investment. He maintains and updates the Twist-Ease website, collateral materials, and social media campaigns.

Hobbies: Downhill Ski Racing, Biking, Water Skiing, Slow-pitch Softball, Fantasy Football

Personal/Community: Certified Hennepin County Master Recycler / Composter Volunteer

Motto in life: “Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.” Dalai Lama

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
My dad, Jim, was a produce manager in the Twin Cities throughout college. During his tenure, he patented the Twist-Ease system. Twist-Ease allowed twist ties to be easily dispensed in the produce department and made them easy to refill. The business was started in 1989, when I was six months old, so I have been involved in the industry since I can remember. I started with Twist-Ease during my summer breaks from college. During those months, I traveled and installed the Twist-Ease system into 250 stores across the country. During these trips, I thought there was a lot I could bring to the table in helping Twist-Ease. Installing our product into the produce department also allowed me to connect with produce employees and often would help customers find and evaluate produce.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
The hot button issue I see is a shifting focus to online shopping spurred by Amazon. Evaluating how these changes have impacted the fresh produce industry and Twist-Ease has been interesting. When I shop, I like to touch and evaluate the produce before I buy it. It will be important finding a way to make online shopping more like the brick and mortar experience.

Q: What would you like to be doing in your career when you turn 50?
I would like to develop and grow, leading Twist-Ease into a second generation of success. Taking the skills learned along the way to develop and mentor future entrepreneurs in the produce world.