2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Tyler Neu

Age: 37

Vice President of Sales
Russ Davis Wholesale
Wadena, MN

Hometown: Wadena, MN
Hobbies: Golf, Hunting, Fishing, Water sports, Enjoying family time
Family/Community: Married, 2 children, Coaching youth hockey
Motto in life: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take.” — Wayne Gretzky

Neu has spent his entire career in produce and has rapidly paved his way to a senior leadership role. In 2000, he began working in the warehouse for Russ Davis Wholesale while in high school. Throughout his summer college breaks, he worked for the company’s procurement team. Upon graduation in 2008, he was hired as a full-time buyer for Russ Davis. In 2009, he left Russ Davis to work for various sales and marketing agencies in the Twin Cities, where he worked closely with retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

In 2015, he was offered a newly developed position at Russ Davis Wholesale as director of business development. In that position, he was responsible for company sales, new business acquisitions, existing account development and working with vendor partners on developing and implementing programs. In 2021, he was promoted to his current position of vice president of retail sales, and oversees company sales, budgets, pricing, account management, account acquisition and organic growth. He serves as vice chairman of the Minnesota Grocers Association (MGA) Council Board, and is a board member of the Wholesaler-Distributor Board for International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA). He is a graduate of the United Fresh Produce Association (now IFPA) Executive Development Program with Cornell University.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
When I was 5, I remember visiting my dad at the grocery store where he was the produce manager and he always gave me different fruits and vegetables to try in the back room. When we would go on summer vacations, he always wanted to stop and check out other grocery stores, and, of course, I was right on his hip. I got to see how rewarding the produce business can be and I knew I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
I took everything personally and it became mentally exhausting. My work/life balance was not healthy. As a wholesaler, there are many aspects out of our control until it gets into our warehouse. Trust the people around you and if we all work toward a common goal, the possibilities are endless.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
In 2018, Russ Davis Wholesale was selected as the Minnesota Grocers’ Most Outstanding Vendor. It was extremely emotional for us to accept the award on behalf of our 600-plus employee-owners, because earlier that spring, Gary Davis (former owner) passed away and he would have been very proud on having Russ Davis Wholesale win that award, since we were founded back in 1955 in northern Minnesota. He has built the foundation for this company and his legacy will live on forever!

Q: What do you see as a critical issue facing the industry in the next decade and why?
Transportation challenges, such as driver shortages that continue to escalate year over year, to increased capital expenditures on buying new equipment to keep your fleet running smoothly and effectively due to the rising cost of ownership, to having the overall cost of transportation-related expenses continue to increase as a percentage of the overall cost of goods both inbound and outbound. All three, plus many more related challenges will continue to increase COG’s to our customers, which will continue to be passed on to the consumer.