2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Melanie Schroedter

Assistant Category Director
Wonderful Citrus
Delano, CA

Age: 37
Hometown: Orange Grove, TX
Hobbies: Participating in 5K runs, Audio books, Walking/hiking with dog
Family/Community: Junior League (President from June 2023 through May 2025)
Motto in life: God has a plan!

Schroedter started her career in produce with L&M Companies out of North Carolina after she graduated from Texas A&M University in May 2008. Throughout her first six months in L&M’s Produce Professional Program (PPP), she traveled the country, learning everything about melons, veg, apples, pears, potatoes, onions, limes and mangos. She spent several weeks in each department of L&M, from transportation to accounts payable to marketing and production. Her last few months of the program were spent in Weslaco, TX, where she worked with the sales department importing limes and mangos. Upon completion of her PPP year, she stayed in South Texas and worked in the sales department.
In October 2012, she took a customer service representative (CSR) position within the sales department of Paramount Citrus that had just bought Healds Valley. Her CSR role expanded with the company’s purchase of Rio Queen Citrus in December of that year. She took on increasing responsibilities, moving through a customer service manager position, account manager, and eventually sales production coordinator.

With the rebrand in June of 2015 of Roll Global to the Wonderful Company, Paramount Citrus became Wonderful Citrus, and Schroedter was chosen to represent the sales department in the input and programming of a new system. Throughout the next several years, she helped with the implementation of the new system within the sales departments, while also maintaining customer accounts with retail, wholesale, and terminal market customers. In late 2018, she moved to California, taking on the role of sales manager out of the Delano headquarters office in March 2019. In 2020, she stepped up to lead the foodservice sales team until the summer of 2022, when the assistant category director role became available. In this role, Schroedter manages the grapefruit and juice orange programs in Texas and California for Wonderful Citrus.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I was initially enticed by a scholarship offered by Texas A&M University for a trip to San Diego, CA, in October 2006. As a selected scholarship recipient, I became one of the many success stories of the Pack Family Foundation and the Career Pathways program. Through mentors and connections I made at the 2006 PMA Fresh Summit, I graduated from Texas A&M University with a job offer from L&M Companies.

Q: What is the one thing in your business you are most passionate about?

People and relationships — this industry is so big and integrated that people and relationships really matter.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

There are more women! It has been amazing to watch more women come in, take on, and take over so many aspects of the produce industry.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

Take it all in and be patient. Everything takes time until the time is right, so just be ready to take on every challenge and opportunity and learn from it.

Q: What do you see as a critical issue facing the industry in the next decade and why?

Water continues to be one of the biggest issues affecting the produce industry. Luckily, California has seen some good rain in the last couple of years, but it won’t last, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas has really been hurting for the last few years.