2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Ryan Miller

Age: 38
M. Levin and Company, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA

Miller entered the produce industry from a background in finance and immediately excelled in the fast-paced and ever-changing produce industry. While he has only been in the business for a few years, he has made an impact on M. Levin and Company, Inc., as well as the industry at-large. He started in general sales and quickly advanced by utilizing previous sales skills, follow up, and attention to detail. He spearheaded the company’s Western Vegetables Program, growing the customer base and seeking new suppliers, eventually taking over the buying of the product. Since he restarted the Western Vegetable Program, its percent growth has been exponential with an estimated 30 percent year-over-year increase in vegetable sales. He also made connections with four new farms that the company now receives product from and has established a new retail partnership that will continue to expand. He is a 2019 Eastern Produce Council Leadership. He gives back by working closely with Philabundance and other area food banks to coordinate weekly donations.

Hobbies: Running, Tennis, Snowboarding, Landscaping

Personal/Community: Married, one daughter and another on the way

Motto in life: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.”

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Starting a new vegetable program was very demanding. This involved forging relationships with suppliers, building a customer base, and continuing to provide the customer experience and quality that our company is known for.

Q: What do you see the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
Unfortunately we are living through it currently with a world pandemic. Learning how to control supply and continue to meet the demands of our customers, while also being empathetic to the challenges the world is facing today — and ultimately in the months and even years to come, is something I never thought I would be dealing with. The current pandemic has forever altered the future of the produce industry.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
Most consumers aren’t educated on what it takes to get product from the farm to their table. They don’t consider the challenges in logistics, farming, workers, food safety, to name the least.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?
We need to keep emphasizing the importance of healthy school lunches. Giving children access to fresh produce daily and educating them on the important benefits of a healthy diet. Not only will this instill health in them, but they will pass it along to their families down the line. This will also help reduce the strain on our healthcare system in the future.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
It’s a hard business to make a name for yourself in; the produce business is all about making and keeping relationships. I would tell someone new to the industry to network (via as much face-to-face as possible) and to make as many connections as you can along different sectors of the supply chain. Learn all that you can from everyone you can. Their experiences and knowledge will help forge your career within the industry.

Q: What would you like to be doing in your career when you turn 50?
My goal is to become the sales manager for our whole sales team, overseeing each salesman and their products. I want to continue to ensure the customer experience stays synonymous with our company’s values, and seeing to it that we are continually growing.