2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Ricardo Echeverri

Age: 38
Vice President of Tropicals
Fyffes North America Inc.
Coral Gables, FL

Echeverri has dedicated his professional career to developing the tropicals category within the U.S. market through programs with excellent quality and pricing. In his position at Fyffes (formerly Turbana Corporation), he manages the entire tropicals program from procurement to sales. In his first year managing the Turbana/Fyffes tropical program, it grew more than 300 percent in revenue resulting in an increase of offerings from 3 to 18 products. He has developed relationships with different growers in Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia and Florida.

He began his produce career 13 years ago as an assistant product manager at Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and was responsible for the procurement and logistics for the Melon Program. While in this role, he gained exposure to the sales and purchasing organization and soon had the opportunity to play an integral part in key sourcing and business transactions. Five years later, he was recruited by Bounty Fresh — a leader in the pineapple business. In addition to selling its pineapple program nationwide, he was brought on board to develop and run the plantain program, which was the newest and premier product offering. His team grew the business from selling three containers per week to selling 14 containers per week (3.5 x in volume) in less than 18 months. As Bounty Fresh was rapidly gaining market share on plantains and industry competitors were taking notice, he was approached in 2013 by Turbana Corporation and offered a senior leadership role as the head of its tropical program. As vice president of tropicals, he restructured the entire program by sourcing directly from growers in Central and South America. Under his direction, the tropical program has grown more than 30 percent each year for the past six years and he continues to focus on expanding it.

Hobbies: Tennis, Running, Exercising, Reading

Personal/Community: Single, St Agnes Catholic Church

Motto in life: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
A few months prior to graduating from Mercer University’s MBA program, I began exploring opportunities in Miami, one of my favorite cities. I came across an opportunity that piqued my interest with Del Monte Fresh Produce and was excited with the idea of working in retail and, particularly, within the fruits and vegetables product category. The connectivity between healthy products and a healthy lifestyle is something I have long been passionate about. I applied for the job but, unfortunately, they required someone to begin immediately and this did not work for me in regards to timing leaving the university. After graduation, I decided to move to Miami and continue to pursue opportunities at Del Monte, among other companies, as some time had passed. I reconnected with the hiring department and to my excitement, the same position had become available. This time I landed the role. I consider myself fortunate to have started my career within such a great company and had the opportunity to learn the business from one of the best in the industry.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?
Our industry needs to focus on being more on the forefront of recruiting, particularly with younger professionals who can bring with them a new mindset and really be disruptive (such as online produce development). I think it is safe to say that our industry is not seen with the same glamour as those in big city upscale offices. However, there is so much more to the industry that makes it rewarding as much as the perceived financial compensation. For example, we get to travel all over the world and work directly with local farmers and growers — the individuals who provide nourishment to a large portion of the population.