Tuesday, 30 January 2024 12:55

From kiwifruit to berries

Written by  Peter Burke
Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson is leaving the co-op. Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson is leaving the co-op.

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson is to leave the farmer-owned co-operative to take up a new position as president of Driscoll's - a huge California-based company that produces a range of berries.

In 2017, it controlled roughly one third of the $6 billion berry market in the US.

Driscoll's is a fourth-generation family business set up in the late 1980s by the Reiter and Driscoll families. The company also has a subsidiary called the Fresh Berry Company based in Hawke's Bay which was set up in 2016.

Mathieson has been at Zespri for 21 years, almost seven of those as CEO, and will remain at Zespri to oversee the 2024 harvest and start of the sales season until a new CEO is appointed.

Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron says Mathieson leaves as a world-class CEO who has helped turn Zespri into a leading sales and marketing company and with the industry well positioned to continue to succeed.

“Under Dan’s exceptional leadership, Zespri grew sales from almost $2.3 billion in 2016/17 to a peak just over $4 billion in 2021/22 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, with that growth set to continue in the coming years. Through that time he demonstrated his ability to bring talented people together, to set and execute strategy and ultimately to deliver great outcomes for the industry,” he says.

Cameron says Mathieson leaves the company in a strong position to build on the industry’s success, with strong and stable management and a clear strategy the team is committed to executing well.

“We know Dan will have great success in his new role,” he says.

Mathieson says it was a difficult decision to leave, but he does so confident the industry is well positioned, while also excited by the personal challenge ahead.

“I’m so passionate about this industry. It’s filled with incredible, deeply committed people providing a world-class product and its future is so bright. We’ve had an industry-wide focus on addressing the quality challenges imposed by Covid restrictions, and on delivering the premium quality product we’re known for – we’ve seen the results of that this season,” he says.

Mathieson says demand for kiwifruit is growing strongly with what has so far been a good growing season. He says Zespri is focused on delivering a large, greattasting and high-quality crop to customers and consumers, and delivering great value back to growers and partners.

“I’m most proud of the people at Zespri and their commitment to delivering for our growers and partners. There will be new challenges ahead, but with an outstanding team of people, a clear strategy, and strong investment in innovation, I know Zespri will continue to be an increasingly strong force in the healthy food space,” he says.

The Zespri board will carry out an executive search for Mathieson’s replacement.

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