2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Joseph Klick

Age: 35

Director, Product Management (East)
Naturipe Farms, LLC
Salinas, CA

Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI
Hobbies: Soccer, Hiking, Kayaking, Biking, Boating
Family/Community: Married, 2 children, Kalamazoo Soccer member and team captain.
Motto in life: Your decisions today will determine your tomorrow.

Klick’s produce career started with a college internship at Melissa’s World Variety Produce as a category manager for Meijer. Upon graduation in 2010, he started work at Naturipe Farms as an assistant product manager (working out of Grand Junction, MI). At Naturipe, he was able to show his strength in multitasking while being detail oriented, and established standard procedures among the operations team and advanced the tools used by the company to be more accurate and efficient in daily execution. This all led to his first promotion to product manager in 2014. With this position, he advanced his ability to analyze complex data and turn it into useful and accurate conclusions, as he tackled bigger and more important projects for the company, mainly centered around forecasting demand to improve accuracy on packaging supply, customer service, and logistics planning.

In 2017, he was promoted to senior product manager and was able to start influencing the company’s strategic planning. This coincided with significant overall company growth at Naturipe Farms, which has grown close to 50% over the past five years in the categories he now manages. During his tenure at Naturipe he has developed strong relationships with critical growers, launched new warehouse distribution points, standardized best practices across the landscape of the business and developed/mentored new employees into managing daily execution. In 2021, he was promoted to director of product management with direct responsibility for the 18-month planning of the company’s blueberry, blackberry and raspberry categories. He has continued to help develop systems, practices, and procedures that allow the product management team to be more efficient and accurate. He is a member of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and part of its Retail Sub-Committee for the Promotions Committee.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
At Michigan State University, I was able to get in contact with Melissa’s World Variety Produce, which then offered me an internship as a category manager at Meijer. I studied food industry management and was exposed to the produce industry in class at MSU. I found the constantly changing aspect of supply and demand fascinating. I’ve always felt comfortable juggling multiple issues while having to think quickly and effectively, so it seemed like a great fit.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
How important it is to be able to analyze data to make the right strategic decisions.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Learning to have the right work-life balance that would allow me to recharge and perform at my highest possible level.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
Becoming a director at Naturipe Farms. I feel honored to lead a very important team for the sustained success of our growers, after years of helping the company flourish.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Bring new ideas to the table, be a force of nature, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. The right organization and team will welcome your passion and understand that the produce industry needs to continue to evolve and improve.