Inspection and Procurement Pros Since 1993
For over 30 years, RJO Produce has set new industry standards for innovation and customer satisfaction. And the reasons why are evident in our people – passionate professionals who are committed to keeping you informed, competitive and successful. All while staying true to our core values: quality fruit, timely information and customer satisfaction. Thanks for taking this opportunity to get to know the people behind RJO Produce.
John entered the produce industry at the age of 16, working as an inspector in the busy packing sheds of the San Joaquin Valley. This sustained him through his college years and, after earning his degree in Ag Business from California State University, Fresno, he and his brother, Rob, started RJO.
The produce marketing industry was – and is – highly competitive, but RJO enjoyed success from the start as customers appreciated the trusted information they received from John and Rob – their “eyes and ears in the field.” This remained a cornerstone of RJO Produce, they recognized the team was most valuable to customers by being out in the growing regions where they could knowledgably communicate about the commodities and quality in the field.
As the company grew to keep pace with the maturing produce industry, they understood the value in investing in new technologies, but never compromised on the principles their business was built on. John calls it “following old-school rules with new-school tools” – a philosophy that has proven strategic in RJO’s success.
John is proud of RJO’s culture, the journey to the top of the produce industry, and excited about the next generation of innovation and service his company will introduce.
Vice President of Sales
Fred joined RJO Produce in 2004 thru an internship as a “Bird Dog” while earning a degree in Ag Business from California State University, Fresno. Upon graduation, he worked for RJO full time, he began overseeing field services, handling day-to-day operations, working seasonally on the East coast and was promoted to an account manager. He also earned his MBA from California State University, Fresno.
He intuitively realized the need for a full-time RJO Produce office on the East Coast. In California, he had seen fresh fruit every day, with his experience on the East Coast, he had a stronger understanding of the volatility of highly perishable products and the impact on customers sales. Fred realized RJO could do better, and he proposed an opportunity to better serve customers.
In 2017, RJO Produce opened its newest office in Swedesboro, New Jersey, with Fred Valentino at the helm – an office that puts him closer to the customer and allows greater quality control, including conducting store audits, handling warehouse issues and providing faster response times. And because he is able to see fruit that’s been stored and in transit, Fred is able to educate his California teammates and provide a valuable perspective on produce from harvest to the consumer.
Vice President Retail Services
Scott brings over 40 years of produce experience to his role at RJO, most recently a 31-year stint with Piggly Wiggly. Now working from our satellite office in Wisconsin, Scott specializes in market analysis and category management, helping customers with a wide range of planning services.
With his strong retail background, Scott has a valuable perspective on RJO Produce and our place in the industry, taking great pride in RJO’s superior field information on pricing and quality. “Anything that equals lower cost and higher quality for customers, we do that better than anybody.”
Scott is particularly excited by RJO’s “eyes and ears on the ground” – our Bird Dogs, and the benefits they deliver to customers. By having Bird Dogs in the growing areas, RJO is able to follow product all the way through the system, providing the reports customers want, right when they want them, with exclusive tech tools. All to help them grow sales.
“RJO brings a great program with a menu approach: procurement, category management, inspections, whatever fulfills the needs of the customers,” Scott says. “We all started on the ground floor of the industry, and are still here due to our passion and our desire to make a difference for our customers.”
Director of Business Operations
A Central Valley native, born in Bakersfield, Jeff earned a Mathematics degree at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and spent the next seven years as an accountant for a large grocery retailer. The job was secure and he was good at it.
The only problem? “I hated it.”
So Jeff quit his job and went back to school for training in the field of computers and IT.
He was initially hired by RJO Produce to solve an IT issue, then took over as Controller due to his accounting experience. His title has since evolved to Director of Business Operations, but Jeff has remained at RJO, handling all aspects of the company’s finances while still taking care of a wide range of IT issues – including management of app creation and the other high-tech tools offered by RJO.
With his unique background, Jeff brings a special perspective to the RJO team. “My years of experience in retail mean I know why it’s important to have specs for a product and what that means to the customer and the grower.”
Director of Bird Dogs
As one of our seasoned Bird Dogs at RJO Produce, Max is in high demand. So when he’s not inspecting fruit in cold storage facilities in his California home, he’s in Philadelphia or New Jersey inspecting fruit as it arrives from Chile and Peru.
Max has been a Bird Dog for RJO Produce since 2013, when he graduated from California State University, Fresno, with a degree in Ag Business. As his tenure with the company has grown, so have his responsibilities. Besides dividing his time between the two coasts, he also oversees some of the other Bird Dogs in the field.
Still, Max would like to continue growing with RJO Produce, which he sees as “a family more than a company, which makes going to work an enjoyable thing.” He cites relationships as the distinctive feature of RJO: the supportive relationships between team members, and the trusted relationships with customers. All of which make RJO Produce a uniquely rewarding company to work for… and to work with.
West Coast Bird Dog Manager
A USDA-certified inspector with the specialized experience required for inspecting fruits and vegetables, Dominic serves as a Bird Dog in Salinas/Watsonville for eight months each year before following the vegetable season to Yuma. Additionally, he helps RJO with berry inspections, and manages a team in Texas inspecting products crossing the border from Mexico.
Despite his busy schedule, Dominic appreciates the unique culture he’s part of at RJO Produce – a culture that’s focused on keeping customers satisfied and conducting business with integrity.
What’s at the heart of that culture? “Communication,” says Dominic. “We keep a daily open dialog with customers, we don’t sugar coat things, and customers appreciate it.”
Dominic’s over-the-top desire to please the customer is contagious at RJO Produce, where team members share a common passion for providing the right information at the right time to help customers achieve the right price and right quality, every time.
Warehouse Operations Manager
Bryan’s journey to RJO Produce is as unique as our place atop the industry. After graduating with a Fine Arts degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Bryan ran a successful graphic design business in New York for 13 years, working with education publishers and national advertising agencies.
He then went to work for Direct Source Marketing – a client of RJO Produce – and six years later, joined our New Jersey office. As Warehouse Operations Manager, Bryan not only ensures that all people and processes are functioning as they should, but contributes his photography expertise for our marketing materials as well.
Bryan is excited about RJO’s role as a leader in cybertechnology, as the company utilizes the web to support customers interactively and solve problems with innovation that is truly unique within the industry. He cites RJO’s comprehensive inspection system as an example, which takes much more data into consideration than other inspection firms, and makes the information available to the customer, the inspector and RJO operations.