So much is held in a handshake.
My grandfather preached how the weight and honor of someone’s word may be found in their grip—a belief system I think hums within the current of our industry to this day.
The clasping of hands is an agreement. You are aligned, combining each other’s strengths to tighten your hold on some aspect of a volatile world.
“There are factors and market forces out of our control in the short term, but there are many that are very much in our control as we take this next step,” Johan Linden, Chief Operating Officer of the newly named Dole plc, says as he reflects on a monumental handshake earlier this year.
Few symbols strike a deal as done like a handshake. And, while we settled into 2021 for what would be another year of change and challenges, Dole Food Company entered such a deal by merging with longtime partner Total Produce, expanding the reach of both brands and deepening an already-bubbling wellspring of industry wisdom.
It’s no secret that Dole had a sizable presence in the market as it was. Each company has individually served fruits and vegetables to the world for more than a century and a half under their respective brands and markets. Now, as Dole plc, Johan says the company will undertake an even greater global position by unifying under the iconic DOLE® brand and serving it to more communities, increasing its reach to an additional tens of millions of people daily.
“The past 18 months have been a paradigm shift across all businesses, including our own produce industry. For Dole, the completion of combining with Total Produce to form Dole plc has been a transformative event in both companies’ long histories.”
Johan Linden, Chief Operating Officer, Dole plc
“As we move forward, thanks to our enormous asset base—from farms and ships to distribution centers—Dole plc will be a truly integrated business bringing the production ever closer to our consumers. Our fresh produce knowledge from farm to fork will enable us to constantly improve our sustainability practices across our entire global supply chain, while the universally recognized DOLE brand will provide a focal point for consumer trust, innovation, and new product development,” he promises.
Even with such increased power added to the Dole and Total Produce handshake, Johan is confident that what has succeeded for each, respectively, will remain, if not strengthen.
“The past 18 months have been a paradigm shift across all businesses, including our own produce industry. For Dole, the completion of combining with Total Produce to form Dole plc has been a transformative event in both companies’ long histories. Yet, externally for customers and consumers of both organizations, the mission, brand strategy, and core values remain unchanged for Dole plc. We will continue our pursuit of feeding the world with the highest quality nutritious foods and produce grown in the most sustainable way possible,” he assures me.
With two great, culturally aligned organizations forming a strong foundation, Johan points out how a premier global fresh produce leader has been forged.
Customers can’t help but benefit as the team grabs access to further ongoing investments; delivery of a broad, highly diversified portfolio; a strengthened balance sheet; and complementary capabilities in the future growth and development of Dole plc.
“A core competency of Dole plc lies in our capacity to differentiate the fresh offerings our customers can present to consumers. By virtue of our on-the-ground operations and local experts across the world, we are attuned to the needs of local marketplaces, tailoring solutions and delivering a tangible competitive advantage to our customer base. We know one size does not fit all, so we distinguish ourselves through our global presence, our capacity to source high-quality crops, and our ability to customize our offerings to local needs,” Johan says of the core pieces of the organization.
After all, those local experts are what has guided the company through key challenges—not just throughout the past couple of years’ unprecedented global state, but decades of defining moments.
“Dole is fueled by an amazing team of people. Being tagged an essential business during COVID-19; executing a successful business merger and restructure; launching an IPO; reestablishing hurricane-decimated banana plantations; expanding capacity; taking high growth categories like organics, avocados, and berries to the next level; and debuting new groundbreaking products—our achievements are a testament to the commitment and effort of our teammates at all levels of the organization,” Johan reflects. “Both Dole and Total Produce have been around for a long time, in part because of a willingness to adapt in the face of industry disruption, and because of the incredible people who power it—teams of individuals with a passion for growing, distributing, and providing the best produce.”
“The combination enables full operational integration, allows meaningful value creation from increased collaboration, and unlocks potential across the value chain.”
It is this very formula, after all, that helps this powerful pairing maintain a dependable tempo of new releases. From research and development into the pipeline of new products to introducing technology and advancements that drive value in business operations, Johan shares how innovation has long been at the core of both businesses, making them two halves of a whole.
“This continues to be at the heart of Dole plc,” Johan adds. “In unifying, we will realize enhanced and expanded category management expertise and innovation capabilities. The combination enables full operational integration, allows meaningful value creation from increased collaboration, and unlocks potential across the value chain. Together, we are utilizing Dole’s vertically integrated business model and asset base with Total Produce’s flexible and agile structure.”
In fact, this combined market and industry insight is on track to drive the focus and speed of new product innovations and developments, delivering even better service to both customers and consumers.
“The two markets—North America and Europe—have a total combined size of about 335 billion dollars for fruits and vegetables and are expected to grow at an annualized rate of 2.7 percent from 2020 to 2025. Dole plc will be well-positioned operationally to capitalize on this growth,” Johan says strongly. “I think of our commitment to innovate our product offerings and insistence on consistently challenging what’s working today in favor of exploring what’s needed for tomorrow. We will utilize our increased size and network to drive market penetration and cross-sell our extensive and increasingly diversified product portfolio across our now more balanced geographic presence. We owe it to ourselves and to the customers we serve to continue leading in this way.”
To be in the fresh produce industry is to take on a dynamic world. Control and predictability are rare to have in hand, requiring balance in both the familiar and the unknown. With the right pieces in place, however, Johan has convinced me that this is a balancing act Dole plc is ready to perform.
But, don’t simply take me at my word—let’s shake on it.