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Igniting An Innovation Revolution: A Q&A With Peppe Bonfiglio

Igniting An Innovation Revolution: A Q&A With Peppe Bonfiglio

All it takes is a spark for a revolution to ignite.

Or, in this industry, a tomato, a cucumber, a pepper, or even a fresh berry.

For Peppe Bonfiglio, it was a Tomato Capital that first kindled his participation in our industry’s innovation revolution.

Leamington: The Tomato Capital of Canada and a hub for many of North America’s top greenhouse growers, Mastronardi Produce® included. But before Peppe played a part—a crucial part—in this produce capital, Leamington was simply the backdrop of his childhood.

Imagine an adolescence in which every whim and wonder, adventure and discovery, took place amidst produce power players, many of whom were growing a category that was quickly taking shape as a power player itself. Such was the landscape from which the Peppe the industry knows today emerged—the very best “product” of his environment, with a vision to match.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Peppe became one of many influential leaders on the Mastronardi Produce team, where he now serves as Vice President of Sales. But, to a company already immersed in a greenhouse revolution of sorts, how is it making sure the flames never die?

We asked Peppe this and more, taking to the frontlines of Mastronardi Produce’s innovation insurgency to get to the bottom of how this industry leader is revolutionizing the greenhouse category.

Kayla Webb: Peppe, Mastronardi Produce is renowned for its innovation. It seems like every season brings a new brand or product to the market. Though we throw the word around a lot, what does “innovation” mean to the SUNSET® brand?

Peppe Bonfiglio: To me, innovation means pushing boundaries and being revolutionary in the way we think about produce.

As an industry leader, SUNSET is continually finding ways to introduce new categories and shake up the categories we dominate. Sometimes, it’s an exciting new product that bursts with exceptional flavor; and sometimes it’s a revolutionary packaging solution or a label design that catches our consumers’ eyes as soon as they walk into the store.

It can also be setting industry standards in areas like food safety, traceability, and sustainability. One thing is for sure, we are constantly innovating and providing solutions to consumers that are meaningful and, obviously, flavorful.

KW: With this mindset, I can’t imagine you lending your expertise to any other industry. While your journey to produce isn’t necessarily a winding one, it does seem like our industry was where you were always meant to be, especially after growing up alongside it. How did your childhood in Leamington lead you here?

PB: Growing up in the Tomato Capital of Canada, I have literally been surrounded by produce my whole life. I obtained my Bachelor of Commerce and soon landed an accounting job at Heinz. But when a sales opportunity came up at Mastronardi Produce, I took the leap. I jumped at the opportunity to work for a leading produce company and knew this was the place where I could advance my career.

Not to mention, as an avid runner and fitness participant, SUNSET complements my lifestyle and shares my passion for health and wellness.

KW: And advance your career you did! What made you a good fit for the role of Vice President of Sales?

PB: I think my work ethic, follow-through, and passion are what made me successful and continue to drive my career forward. I started at Mastronardi Produce as an Account Manager and then moved up to the position of Director before becoming the Vice President of Sales.

I also believe positive things happen to people who are positive. With my new role, I now have the opportunity to coach and mentor more broadly, which is incredibly rewarding.

When I started my career, I was told three very important rules to succeed:

1. Follow up and follow through

2. Be honest

3. Stay passionate

I use these rules every day, and I really do think they continue to help me—no matter my role.

KW: How have you implemented these philosophies for success in your new role?

PB: When you work at Mastronardi Produce, you need to be passionate about flavor and innovation. It is this shared passion that allows us to continually grow, revolutionize the category, and solidify our mark as industry leaders.

When you’re passionate about something, you work hard at it and great results will follow. Such was the case with the launch of our WOW Berries Elevated premium line. We saw an opportunity to reinvent the berry category, as we did with tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, and the results have been astonishing.

KW: I have to agree. Within the last year or so, the WOW berry brand has taken off, carving out a new niche with consumers looking for a high-quality, sweet offering. What challenges has Mastronardi Produce overcome as it launched its new berry business and what exciting developments have emerged from those challenges?

PB: I think a challenge has been just learning the volatility of the berry category. Our new WOW Berries Elevated premium line is really going to change consumers’ expectations and provide a horizontal shopping experience that will grow the category.

KW: After debuting so many new products over the last couple of years, I have to ask: Are there any innovations we can look forward to in the near future?

PB: Hands down, our Honey Bombs. Our Flavor Bombs® and Sugar Bombs® have had massive success with consumers, and I’m confident this newest addition is going to be just as explosive.

The innovation Mastronardi Produce is introducing to greenhouse is undeniably unprecedented. And, with leaders like Peppe on its team, the grower is already well on its way to setting fire to Leamington in order to build a new capital—perhaps a Greenhouse Capital of the World

Igniting An Innovation Revolution: A Q&A With Peppe Bonfiglio