Packer 25 2020 — Don Roper
Don Roper has come a long way from his first job as produce clerk at Copps IGA in Antigo, Wis.?
“I never guessed I’d be back in the industry where it all started,” said Roper, vice president sales and marketing for Elgin, Minn.-based Wescott Agri Products, famous for Honeybear brand apples.?
Prior to joining brother-in-law Fred Wescott in the apple business in 2005, Roper worked in health care accounting, sales and marketing in Cargill’s agriculture division and as director of business development at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson.
He used his formidable skills to help grow Wescott from a small regional apple grower/marketer to an international company offering a year-round supply of apples from Minnesota, Washington and Chile.?
He’s also proud of Westcott’s sophisticated apple variety testing and commercialization program, which has brought proprietary varieties such as Pazazz to market and helped commercialize new varieties including First Kiss.
“We recognize the importance of bringing consumers products they’re really going to love,” he said. “Our company’s DNA screams demand creation, consumer/merchandising trends and new ideas, which has helped keep us on the leading edge of product and program innovation, new growing practices, new technologies and much more.”
As vice president, Roper’s main role is to help set the company’s strategic direction, ensuring it remains healthy and sustainable.
“Having a strong commitment and passion for what you do every day allows you to inspire others and build their confidence in their work and the company,” Roper said.?
“My favorite part is being with our customers and helping put solutions in place to help them differentiate and grow their business,” he said.
“They know they can call me or anyone on our team at any time and we will work to resolve any issue. To build trusting relationships with all our key stakeholders is extremely rewarding!”
Charlie Russell, produce director for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Cub Foods supermarkets, said Westcott has been an excellent partner for years.?
“Don is always looking for ways to drive sales and he always looks a few steps ahead to create solutions for problems that may be on the horizon,” Russell said.?
A current partnership involves donating proceeds from local apple sales to provide acres of land friendly to pollinator bees, essential for many crops, including apples.?
“He goes above and beyond category management to see how we can partner together to support the communities around us,” said Russell.
Todd Bernitt, vice president of services for Robinson Fresh, a division of C.H. Robinson, describes Roper as full of energy and “one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. Don’s passionate around his family and passionate about his business, which translates to his employees and customers. He also has a high moral compass. When you deal with him it’s going to be true, straightforward and done right; he’s never wavered from that.”
Roper and his wife, Suzanne, have three grown children.
Roper’s advice for people entering the produce industry? Hard work pays off and good leaders will notice, he guarantees it. Go and work with people you like. Answer your phone, text and e-mail; you never know who’s on the other end. And enjoy the journey rather than focus on reaching the top.?
“Don’s energy, enthusiasm, industry knowledge and forward thinking have been key contributions to the success of our company,” said president Fred Wescott. “He is deserving of this recognition.”