2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Karan Kohli

Age: 28

Director of Berry Sales
Mastronardi Produce
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Hobbies: Canoeing, Barbecuing
Family/Community: Married, Expecting first child, Downtown Mission of Windsor
Motto in life: Give it your best shot, make mistakes, just don’t make the same mistake twice.

After a few finance internships with Restaurant Brands International and PepsiCo, Kohli began his career working as an analyst for Restaurant Brands International. In his time there, he created comprehensive New Country Entry Playbook for the Tim Hortons franchise and launched the brand in China. In 2019, he joined the produce industry as a financial analyst for Mastronardi BerryWorld America. He had key involvement in budgeting and forecasting, analyzing the performance of each berry segment, and improving sales, pricing and gross margin. The following year, he became the business development manager for Mastronardi Produce and executed a sales strategy for exponential growth that drove sales by 337% YOY. During that time, he completed a Negotiation Mastery program through Harvard Business School and participated in the Emerging Leaders Program with the Center for Growing Talent by PMA.

In 2022, he was promoted to director of berry sales, his current position. His primary areas of responsibility include developing long-term strategy and the company’s customer portfolio; implementing strategic, long-term sales plans with key accounts; supporting all key account managers; and managing and negotiating customer contracts for mutual growth. Last year, he was invited to participate in the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) Leadership Program and he recently completed the IFPA Executive Leadership Development Program at Cornell University. He currently volunteers for the USHBC Food Manufacturing Subcommittee and serves as an alternate for the USHBC Council.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I started as a financial analyst and quickly got immersed in the business. I have always been interested in where our food comes from, and I was excited to continuously learn more and drive the business forward.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
Every day will be different and that is OK, and that is what will make you fall in love with the industry.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
The pace of the business compared to being in a non-perishable business.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
There is a lot more that goes into getting food into the grocery store than most people realize.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?
Snacking is a huge category. If we can offer consumers a healthy snack that is delicious, convenient and priced competitively, we have a huge opportunity to grow the industry.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
There has been a lot of consolidation and the varietal push, especially on the berries, has been huge. Consumers want flavor, and they’re willing to pay for it.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
The various leadership programs I have been a part of have been very rewarding, as I get to learn from peers across the industry.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Be a sponge and learn from others’ experiences.