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Mentors in the Making

Lila Baig, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Catania Worldwide

To succeed in the tumultuous world of fresh produce, one must be many things; patient, strategic, personable, the list goes on...The number of valuable traits deeply rooted within the luminaries that make up this simultaneously challenging and rewarding industry is limitless.

Enter Lila Baig, a curious creative whose humility speaks almost as loudly as the stellar achievements she has made as Catania Worldwide’s Business Development and Marketing Manager. Lila’s produce journey takes us back five years, when the visual marketer stepped into the role of Sales and Marketing Assistant for Catania. Under the wing of Mario Masellis, Director of Sales and Marketing, Lila discovered what so many of us do when we first settle into this industry—there is always something to learn.

“Mario is a wealth of knowledge and the perfect individual to introduce and guide me through the industry. Through his can-do spirit, Catania pride, and infinite connections, he taught me how to navigate produce sales, procurement, and marketing, all the while unflagging in his efforts to make me a more confident individual. I didn’t realize there was this whole world of fruit and veg,” Lila tells me, detailing a familiar perception of simplicity. “I thought, you go to the grocery store, you buy an apple, and that’s all there is to it. I had no idea it was its own little world, and I think that’s what got me hooked into it: There’s so much to learn every single day.”

This admirable student mentality was perhaps the driving force behind the marketing ace’s growth at Catania, as it was not long before her expertise began to shine through, even in her personal life.

“In just a couple of months, I found myself at a grocery store with my mom telling her, ‘let me pick the fruit out,’ because I already learned the secrets of how to choose the best,” Lila chuckles.

"I didn’t realize there was this whole world of fruit and veg. [...] I had no idea it was its own little world, and I think that’s what got me hooked into it: There’s so much to learn every single day.”

- Lila Baig, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Catania Worldwide

And, like many dedicated students, Lila’s knowledge bank deepened over time, filled with first-hand expertise from Catania Worldwide President Paul Catania.

“Paul taught me everything I know today. From life lessons to teaching me about agriculture and sales and operations, he is my pillar in the world of produce without whom I could not have made it this far,” Lila reflects. “He is always inclined to let me try something new. No idea is too bold. He has taught me how to create lasting and genuine relationships with our partners, how to never lose sight of our abilities, and how to stay grounded.”

As Lila continued to help Catania’s marketing department gain steam, her flame was fueled by a fellow advertising ally, Emily Murracas, Director of Marketing for Mucci Farms, who helped her orient her vision to spark a new phase of evolution for the company.

“Emily is a pioneer in produce marketing. Everything she touches turns to gold,” beams Lila. “I started noticing how important marketing is very early on, and I knew who I had to look to for guidance in bringing my ideas to life. She always made time to help me work out anything I was puzzled about. She is one of the kindest people I have met and an inspiration for my successes.”

"In just a couple of months, I found myself at a grocery store with my mom telling her, ‘let me pick the fruit out,’ because I already learned the secrets of how to choose the best."

- Lila Baig

In tandem with a newfound understanding of supply-side operations, Lila also took the time to hone her buy-side expertise. This opportunity was sparked by a mutual passion for food and a genuine relationship with Costco Produce Buyer Devin Syrovatka.

“Devin and I initially connected over our mutual love of food. Devin is unfailingly generous when it comes to imparting wisdom, and extremely intelligent. He is an extraordinary buyer and truly represents Costco’s value in pursuing excellence in quality,” Lila notes. “He’s open to trying anything and everything, and that’s one of my favorite things about him. He is my guidepost for untapped categories, understanding the Canadian consumer, and, of course, restaurants I must try!”

Looking back at each of the building blocks of her impressive career, I cannot help but think of the monumental achievements that lie in wait for the Catania Worldwide marketing department.

With a perennial student of the game at the helm, the opportunities are infinite.The Snack Endstop



The Mentors

Here is what they have to say about Lila...


Mario Masellis,

Director of Sales and Marketing, Catania Worldwide

"Originally brought on board to assist me with my day-to-day work, I soon discovered the jewel that we know today. It was evident to me early on that Lila was not going to be assisting me for long. Lila came to us with a pleasantly shy personality that now renders refreshing confidence. Her curiosity and eagerness to learn about the produce industry are the keys to her continued growth and success. She asks many questions but does not accept all the answers. In fact, one of the questions that irritates me more than I care to admit is, ‘Why can’t we do that?’ It certainly makes me question the traditional thought in marketing produce. Steven Spielberg said, ‘The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.’ Well done, Lila!"

 

Paul Catania,

President, Catania Worldwide

"In an ideal younger employee, I look for someone who is energetic, willing to learn, enthusiastic, a team player, obviously intelligent, and detail-oriented, but, ultimately, someone who has an inherent feel for our industry. It is rare to be able to put all of those traits together. In Lila, I am watching this package develop like a flower unfolding in stages. Or, in our industry, like a bright fruit growing on a tree."

 

Emily Murracas,

Director of Marketing, Mucci Farms

"Lila’s success is no surprise to me, as she has developed at a steady pace at Catania while growing and leading the marketing team. She has a contagious energy that allows her professionalism and vibrant personality to impact those around her—a rare asset that truly raises team spirit and corporate culture. In all my interactions with her, she has a humble presence with an inquisitive mind and a willingness to learn. Lila’s attention to detail shines across Catania’s increased brand presence, and I’m excited to watch her continue to grow and inspire the next generation of produce professionals!"

 

Devin Syrovatka,

Produce Buyer, Costco

"Lila is all of the best parts of working in the produce industry; she is dynamic, full of knowledge, humble, and her passion is nothing short of infectious. She rolls with the never-ending ups and downs of the seasons, is always quick to communicate, and when something eventually goes wrong, she is the first one to dive into the problem and make it right—even if I caused it! I have had the pleasure of working with Lila on a number of new projects, and you can tell immediately that she is invested in what you are invested in. I cannot wait to see where her career takes her, as there are few with the same exceptional mix of drive and personality. Honestly, find a way to work with Lila. You will be glad you did!"