2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Nicole Gordy

Age: 34

Director of Business Analytics
Sage Fruit Company
Yakima, WA

Hometown: Yakima, WA
Hobbies: Traveling, Camping, Fishing, Boating with family
Family/Community: Married, 2 daughters, Pomological Club member
Motto in life: “Live each and every day as if it were your last — because one day you’ll be right.” — Bob Moawad

Gordy was born and raised in the Yakima Valley. After graduating from college in 2013, she began her career in the apple industry at Sage Fruit as the executive assistant to the chief executive, and spent six years in that role. She accomplished a wide range of projects during that time, ranging from building a category management program to managing the build of Sage’s new office headquarters. Four years ago, she was promoted to a newly created position as director of business analytics. In this role, she is responsible for evaluating business processes and finding new technologies to improve the company’s business. She led the company’s category management program and its business analytics team.

Over the last four years, she oversaw the development of a website that provides critical analytics to stakeholders, worked with her team to implement a new company-wide reporting/dashboarding platform, and expanded the company’s category management department. In 2019, she was selected to the Young Apple Leader program by the U.S. Apple Association. Recently, she became a new member of the IFPA Technology Council.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
Before working in produce, I had no clue how much went in to getting food to the store shelf. When I started my career, I had so much to learn about all the effort that is put in at every level to ensure the consumer has an exceptional eating experience. I now have such a high-level of appreciation for all of the growers, and farm and warehouse workers who work so hard to grow and pack the best fruit.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Understanding the various varieties, grades, sizes and pack styles took time. I never knew an apple could be packed in so many different ways.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?
Creating an environment that is inviting to all consumers is important. We must recognize not everyone has the same access to fruits and vegetables, and there are often economic barriers that prevent the purchase of fresh produce. Seasonality plays a role in affordability for many people. Communicating to consumers about what’s in season in their local produce department is a great way to engage with them and encourage increased consumption. This can take the form of in-store displays, newsletters and social media.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
There has been a significant shift in how consumers shop for produce — COVID-19 really accelerated the shift to online grocery shopping, and it is here to stay. Consolidation has been another significant change, at all levels. Many growers are selling to investors due to the continuing rising costs, produce sales companies have merged, and retail mergers have continued.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Be a sponge! There is a wealth of knowledge in our industry and so much to learn. Ask a lot of questions and be open to learning from others around you. Get involved in industry events, committees, or meetings. Focus on building relationships and finding a mentor to help you thrive.