All your grape needs in one placeThe ultimate back-to-school treat!

The Avocado Agent: A Q&A With Jennifer Anazawa, Director of Commercial Insights, Mission Produce

The Avocado Agent: A Q&A With Jennifer Anazawa, Director of  Commercial Insights, Mission Produce™

When I imagine Jennifer Anazawa at the helm of the Mission Produce AvoIntel program, I picture a savvy investigator hot on the trail of the latest avocado insights. Heading up the team as Director of Commercial Insights at Mission, Jennifer navigates the avocado marketplace with the high-stakes skills of a detective. At least, that is my take on this industry expert.

AvoIntel, Mission’s in-house data-driven category management service, identifies customer and consumer insights to inform profitable programming opportunities. Jennifer leads the program, helping Mission’s partners make choices to generate sales, attract more shoppers, and reduce shrink.

So, how did Jennifer find herself in this influential role? Walk with me as we take a closer look.

Chandler James: You are one impressive industry pro, Jennifer! I’m curious to learn more about your path to produce. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Jennifer Anazawa, Director of Commercial Insights, Mission Produce: I started my career in category management 15 years ago at L’Oréal. It was serendipitous because I had actually applied for an account coordinator position and they said, “I think you would be a great business analyst.” I accepted without even knowing what a business analyst does! Since then, I’ve held various roles in consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales, marketing, and insights, and then made my way to produce, where I’ve been for 10 years, specifically Mission Produce, where I’ve been for six years. I feel very fortunate that I was able to quite literally stumble into a career that I continue to be very passionate about.

CJ: Serendipity truly is the essence of our industry! I can tell how passionate you are about produce from what you have told me so far. So, what are some of the aspects you love about this industry? And some of the more challenging ones?

JA: I like that my role is both analytical and creative, so I get to flex both sides of my brain! Yes, there are a LOT of spreadsheets and number crunching, but I also need to communicate a clear story about the benefits of switching up your assortment or adjusting your ad strategy.

Someone once told me that analyzing produce is as much of an art as it is a science. In CPG, you would never run out of a SKU of shampoo—you can always just make more. But in produce, unfortunately, you can’t control what the tree produces. It’s very unpredictable, but that makes every day exciting and a new challenge.

CJ: Can you tell me about a day in the life of a Director of Commercial Insights for Mission Produce? What is one thing that keeps your blood pumping?

JA: My day-to-day never goes as planned because there’s always a curveball! But it could include working with our sales team to present a category review to a retailer, collaborating with marketing to get insights on a new packaging initiative, or preparing market data for a board meeting. There are a lot of Excel sheets and PowerPoints, but also working cross-functionally with many departments here at Mission.

“It’s very unpredictable, but that makes every day exciting and a new challenge.”

Jennifer Anazawa, Director of Commercial Insights, Mission Produce™

As for one of my favorite projects, category reviews are always fun! I want our customers to win as much as they do. I love finding opportunities for our customers to grow their businesses and deliver value to their shoppers. I enjoy interacting with our customers and finding solutions together.

CJ: Now that you have a decade of produce industry experience under your belt, what advice might you give to industry up-and-comers?

JA: Be curious and ask questions! I learn something new almost every day at Mission. It could be about topics as diverse as transportation or inventory or sourcing. It might not seem applicable at the time, but I guarantee it will be beneficial to know down the line.

CJ: You obviously play a huge role in Mission’s AvoIntel service. Since you started working with the program, what are some of the major changes you have seen? And what kind of growth do you predict for the future?

JA: Our capabilities have improved considerably over the last six years. We started out with the basic, syndicated data, and now we have a full suite of tools at our disposal, including household panel data and shopper surveys and insights. I’m always looking for new ways to keep expanding the value that AvoIntel brings to our customers and to keep Mission in the pole position.

Initially, there was a lot of focus on the United States, but avocados are primed to grow globally. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in global markets, as well as foodservice and wholesale. And, with our continued growth in the mango category, we’re planning to expand our category management to mango customers too.

I stand by my earlier comparison of Jennifer to a detective. Do you see the resemblance now?

It is folks like her that keep Mission Produce on the leading edge of the avocado industry. And with a long career ahead of her, we certainly look forward to seeing this category sleuth take on her next project. 

The Avocado Agent: A Q&A With Jennifer Anazawa, Director of  Commercial Insights, Mission Produce™