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Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Q&A With Oscar Guzman, Director of Marketing and Sales, Progressive Produce

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Q&A With Oscar Guzman, Director of Marketing and Sales, Progressive Produce

Rooted.

After getting to know Oscar Guzman, this is the first word that immediately sprouts in my mind when it comes to both Progressive Produce and the Director of Marketing and Sales.

Our industry knows roots very well, for without strong roots, the very livelihood we all share would become quite difficult to maintain. This thematic presence makes itself known throughout many applications, not just in fresh produce.

Roots, branches, the applications of a tree in its entirety, they’re all used to portray similarities and connections in our day-to-day life, such as corporate entities, website domains, or familial lineage. The Tree of Life is a fundamental archetype we all know well; and just like this spiritual life force, Progressive Produce provides its own sustaining energy.

Built on five key tenants—or branches, if you care to continue my earthly metaphor—the supplier’s marketing department extends life into the world of produce with innovative products and effective go-to market strategies. The fierce marketing team is known for producing more inviting products than just fresh produce, and Oscar was more than happy to dig into the company’s foundations with me.

 


Lilian Diep: When I think of Progressive Produce, creative recipes and intriguing marketing campaigns come to mind, but I know there’s more to it than meets the eye. Can you tell me what drives you while working at Progressive, Oscar?

Oscar Guzman, Director of Marketing and Sales, Progressive Produce:
At Progressive, we are built on five Core Values. Our team is relentless in our pursuit of excellence. We do what we say we will do, and we care about our business like we own it. Our team members bring high energy and a great attitude every day in order to work as a team and be respectful of others.

Every one of us works hard to uphold these values. We put all that we have into the company and our communities to not only be better but provide goodness. That’s our go-to-market strategy: uphold these values, live our mission, and embrace our purpose and passion to seek our vision.

 


LD: It seems like the workplace is always vibrant and engaging! Taking this strategy into consideration, how does Progressive make its mark in the industry? Why is marketing an integral part when it comes to
fresh produce?

OG: We are constantly thinking about the future. Eating fruits and vegetables has been taught to us since we were young, so we have to explore innovative ways to generate interest and expand consumption. Marketing is typically considered the department that makes things look “pretty,” but that’s not necessarily the case. We can be seen as something like the Jack/Jill of all trades.

One of our Founders, Charles Gilb, once said, “The innovative ideas that we had at Progressive are now a standard in the produce business.”

Our department is always exploring what innovations can become the next generation of produce standards. We have our own marketing research and development, and we always think about the bigger picture. Our marketing team works with all aspects of the company, from sales and operations to food safety and more.


LD: Ah, if I remember correctly, the saying goes, “A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one?” I can’t say I’ve heard it often used for describing a marketing department. What are some of those duties and responsibilities? How does the company benefit from the marketing team’s input?

OG: When we discover new trends and shopper habits, we convey that to the rest of the departments. Identifying key innovations and category opportunities helps tie in the sales and commodities departments, while packaging design keeps us in front of buyers’ and consumers’ eyes. The creative output we generate directly and indirectly impacts the rest of the department, and that’s just the sales side.

We also maintain the company’s presence throughout the industry by connecting with our customers and consumers. That said, we are also in charge of grower relations and employee engagement to keep both parties thriving.

Marketing also seeks out beneficial partnerships, such as our recent collaborations with Border X Brewing and Heart of Compassion. Progressive’s limes are used in Border X Brewing’s Pepino Sour Beer, and that is always a fun undertaking.

Heart of Compassion is a local nonprofit we always look forward to helping. We’ve participated in events benefiting children such as back-to-school and Toys for Tots, but we also try giving back to communities through endeavors such as Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanup. Progressive has also started participating in local compost organizations to reduce our impact on the environment.

"We are constantly thinking about the future. Eating fruits and vegetables has been taught to us since we were young, so we have to explore innovative ways to generate interest and expand consumption.”

Oscar Guzman, Director of Marketing and Sales, Progressive Produce

LD: I take it you’re not the only one taking part in these activities! Who are your fellow team members by your side?

OG: I am definitely not alone! Our branch is small, but we’re nimble. Jaime Greger, Senior Marketing Coordinator, started in produce almost nine years ago at Progressive, and she has marketing in her blood. She used to work closely with her father Bob Bornhoeft, who was one of the pioneers of In-N-Out’s artwork and marketing campaigns. Jaime really is the glue of our team; we’ve been focusing on employee engagement this year, and she’s spearheaded a lot of projects to bring everyone together.

Amanda Nojadera, our Digital Marketing Coordinator, joined Progressive over two years ago. She’s only been in the produce industry for four years, but she brings a fresh, new outlook to our team. Amanda graduated from Loyola Marymount University, and she successfully completed the Fresh Produce & Floral Council apprentice program in 2019.


LD: As a team then, how do you, Jaime, and Amanda navigate the competitive space that is fresh produce marketing? What are some ways you stay fresh in the industry?

OG: There are so many ways we stay fresh and sustainable in our industry. Our team creates award-winning content that spans videos, packaging, ads, and more. Each one shines in every aspect we all work so hard for.

“In Search of Paper,” a video about Progressive’s 100 percent recyclable paper packaging for potatoes, received a 2022 Bronze Telly Award, a 2022 Gold AVA Award, and a 2022 Marketing Excellence Award. Our team also produced “Heroes,” which earned a 2021 Bronze Telly Award and a 2022 Platinum AVA Award. We’ve also received a 2021 Gold Viddy Award for our Walla Walla Sweet Onions in addition to several GDUSA Graphic Design and Packaging Awards for our citrus packaging, Peruvian asparagus ad, citrus ad, Mim’s Packaging, and baby potato packaging.

Our packaging features modern, high-graphic designs that are great for merchandising while also meeting our sustainability standards. Designing consumer bags that invite themselves into shopping carts is an art, and we are proud of our marketing team’s continued effort to combine the right packaging materials with imagery that connects us to the produce. Clean, convenient, and with a clear message—I love how our bags amplify the produce they display.

We also maintain our presence digitally, both externally and internally. Our website is full of dynamic content and information to satisfy the curiosity of any buyer or consumer looking to learn more about a product, recipe, or us! The website will continue to grow and evolve with new media we develop throughout the year including recipes, how-to videos, grower profiles, and more.

What also sets us apart is our dedication to employee engagement. We are constantly creating new events and forms of digital communication to ensure that our team stays strong, even with today’s environment of hybrid-remote and face-to-face work.

This year, we introduced Progressive Quarterly, or PQ, an internal celebration of our team. PQ contains fun and engaging articles that allow us to learn more about our teammates around the country, celebrate employee achievements and milestones, share important information, and announce upcoming events. There are so many great stories to tell about our team members, and we are excited and looking forward to learning and sharing them with everyone.


LD: Progressive’s marketing team is quite agile and flexible as you mentioned earlier. Would you say this is necessary when you react to today’s changing needs?

OG: Very much so! Consumers change, and shopping habits change. Being based out of Los Angeles, California, has helped us stay on our toes and become experts in navigating our landscape.

Los Angeles is known for its melting pot of demographics, and being able to understand and service this market is no small task. Based on our studies, and depending on the geographic location, consumers are looking for one of the following: value, innovation, convenience, and/or intent. What provides the most ounce per dollar? Is this product different and new to market? Can the product be easily consumed? Is it transportable? Do these products align with shoppers’ beliefs?

Market strategies today must be very specific in intention and execution. We know that sustainability and social responsibility are top of mind for today’s consumers, and we have over 50 years of expertise to back up our promotions. While we can’t prevent every plastic bag from ending up in the landfill, we challenged ourselves to make a small difference within the produce industry by expanding our Earth-friendly packaging options and offering more sustainable solutions for our customers.

This has led us to developing our sustainability and social responsibility initiative, Rooted, over the past few years, which is based on three pillars: people, planet, and practices. We’re doing our part to build a better tomorrow by ensuring workplace well-being; giving back to our community; minimizing our carbon footprint; and using sustainable growing, packing, and shipping practices.

We’re still growing, both in practice and people, so I anticipate we’ll have more blueprints to unfurl.


I liken Oscar to the California state tree, the Redwood—sturdy, respected, and ever-growing with opportunity in an environment he was born to be in. With roots planted firmly beneath and around him, he’s with similar minds as he expands his reach across the industry. Keeping his hands stretched toward the skies and mind wide open, Oscar helps us see the forest for the trees. So, let’s go out and explore, shall we? 

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Q&A With Oscar Guzman, Director of Marketing and Sales, Progressive Produce