Packer 25 2020 — Chris Willett
“When you believe in the products you deliver to consumers, it’s that much more rewarding when you achieve success,” said Chris Willett of Wenatchee, Wash.-based T&G Global.
Since joining T&G in 2009, Willett has held a number of positions. In his current role as vice president of North America growing and sales operations, he manages successful New Zealand apple brands like Jazz and Envy, now grown around the world.
“It’s really rewarding to work for an organization committed to promoting healthier lifestyles,” he said.?
“I love that I’m able to work with talented people, whom I learn from daily, and it’s invigorating to be able to develop and promote Jazz and Envy, which I believe are unique and exceptional. I’m constantly thinking about how we can become more efficient and streamlined in meeting both our retailer and consumers’ needs while maintaining sustainable profits for our growers.”?
Willett was raised in a Yakima family heavily involved in Washington’s tree fruit industry. He received his bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from California’s University of Redlands, intending to apply it to sustainable agriculture.
“Although I didn’t have a clear career path in mind, soon after joining T&G I realized I was intrigued by the produce industry from end-to-end,” he said.?
Willett is also chairman of the Washington Apple Education Foundation’s board of directors. The charity provides more than a million dollars in college scholarships annually to students from families involved in the Northwest tree fruit industry.
Bob Mast, president of CMI apple and cherry growers in Wenatchee, said that Willett, father of two young children, “brings great passion to the business, whether it is his work with T&G Global or his volunteer work with organizations such as the WAEF. When working with teams his dynamic, enthusiastic approach helps propel business forward.” ?
Mast also said that despite his many industry duties, Willett “finds the time to visit with his strategic business partners regularly with a cohesive and team-building approach. Chris is never too busy to slow down and seek valuable input and feedback before making a key decision.”
Miles Kohl, CEO of Allan Bros. Inc., Naches, Wash., describes T&G’s managed apple variety program as the most successful global program of its kind.?
“With his cerebral approach to problem-solving combined with a passion for understanding the intricacies of a program, Chris has been a key leader in managing the logistical complexities of working with growers, packers, sales agencies, marketing and leadership in New Zealand,” said Kohl.?
“He ensures programs provide sustainable returns to growers with a retail customer and consumer focus.” ?
Willett thinks the next few years will bring unique challenges for apple growers as production volumes increase, operating costs rise and competition within the produce department accelerates.?
To meet the challenge of COVID-19, he said T&G has improved the efficiency of its teams, scattered in home offices around the globe, while giving employees a better life/work balance.?
He reminds young people that everyone in the industry was new at some point in their career. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and reach out for help, he said, and don’t be afraid to take on a project or task you’re not 100% comfortable with.