2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Joshua Noonan

Age: 35
Senior Manager, Supply Chain Services
Robinson Fresh
Eden Prairie, MN

Noonan 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 with the focus on managing strategy for the company’s produce distributors, assisting them to transport inbound produce more effectively for foodservice clients. He then took on a new role, managing the company’s Preferred Distribution Network, a group of regional produce distributors servicing 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.

Through his 13-year career at C.H. Robinson/Robinson Fresh, Noonan has held numerous positions within the company of which he has consistently been tasked with developing and executing on strategies in conjunction with produce industry initiatives. His experience includes leadership within the Managed Procurement Services division, produce transportation, managing and developing the Produce Distribution Network, and recently the collaborative strategy with Alibaba.com bringing Robinson Fresh Produce to its e-commerce platform.

Hobbies: Hosting backyard BBQs, Golfing, Playing basketball with his son, Minnesota Vikings

Personal/Community: Engaged, one son and another on the way, Diamond Lake Lutheran Church, The Bridging Center, Wounded Warriors Foundation, Richfield Youth, and Central College Athletics

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

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
As I walked the C.H. Robinson sales floor as part of my interview process, I was immediately attracted to the global impact of the fast-paced environment and the teamwork involved in each produce transaction.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers and grocers were struggling to meet the heightened consumer demand and keep fresh produce on their shelves. We helped them by utilizing our regional Produce Distribution Network, something the team and I developed over the past seven years, to bring in fresh produce and make twice daily deliveries directly to the stores and keep the shelves stocked.

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: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
Improving produce traceability to origin of supply is vital in placing more quickly-issued advisories and recalls without consumer harm or large industry disruption.

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.

Q: What would you like to be doing in your career when you turn 50?
My goal is to be the president of Robinson Fresh, guiding a team of strong leaders interacting with industry leaders to ensure healthy, safe, and affordable produce is available globally to consumers.