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Oppy toasts two fruitful careers

Oppy is celebrating two of its finest — Tropicals Category Vice President Steve Woodyear-Smith and Creative Services Director Cathie MacDonald — as they wrap up their careers with the leading grower, marketer and distributor at the end of the month.

“Steve and Cathie have both made momentous contributions to our business over their storied careers — as leaders, innovators and cultural role models,” said Oppy President David Smith. “They have more than 50 years of tenure between them, all of which were spent breaking ground in their respective areas of expertise, while supporting their peers and influencing life at Oppy with distinctive style.”

MacDonald was first affiliated with the organization in 1991, then working for ENZA, a partner in the Seattle-based New Zealand Fruit Co., which was later absorbed by The Oppenheimer Group. Thus began her enduring commitment to building the market for New Zealand’s apples and pears, which extended to the full Oppy assortment in the years to come. MacDonald held such positions as trade relations manager, creative services manager and, most recently, director of creative services. In these roles, she refined Oppy’s in-house marketing team to include graphic design, packaging development, insights, branding and integrated marketing disciplines.

“Cathie made her mark at Oppy through her immense tenacity and the spirit of fun, which can be seen in the brands she helped create, promotions she conceptualized and her heartfelt delivery on our expect the world from us promise,” said James Milne, senior vice president of marketing and categories. “Cathie was my first friend when I joined Oppy in 1994, and ours is the kind of friendship between colleagues that’s fueled by creative energy and the joy of collaborating on meaningful projects. I’m grateful to have had the chance to work closely with Cathie throughout these many years.”

Milne points to MacDonald’s leadership of Oppy’s packaging development processes from their inception and her spirited yet commercially pragmatic approach to brand development as key contributions.

“Cathie has been Oppy’s greatest champion. While she leaves behind a well-prepared team to carry her banner forward, she will be dearly missed,” Milne said.

Responsibility for the company’s marketing strategy and its execution sits with Executive Director of Marketing Karin Gardner, who reports to Milne.

Meanwhile, Woodyear-Smith leaves the reins of Oppy’s tropicals category in the capable hands of Fernando Caudillo, who has served as the category’s director for several years. Caudillo is succeeded by Eric Ziegenfuss, who has managed Oppy’s kiwifruit business on the U.S. East Coast for the last half decade.

Woodyear-Smith joined Oppy in 2000, following management positions with Zespri International in New Zealand and Asia, to run its kiwifruit category.

“Steve came to into the role at a pivotal time in the history of kiwifruit, rebuilding the market after the anti-dumping ruling that kept New Zealand kiwifruit essentially out of the U.S. for seven years,” Smith recounted. “He went on to lead the North American launch of the Zespri brand, and, alongside our partners at Zespri, the hugely successful introduction of SunGold kiwifruit, the fastest-growing item in the fruit bowl.”

Woodyear-Smith built Oppy’s kiwifruit category to include ever-increasing volumes of Northern Hemisphere-grown fruit, to better serve a customer base hungry for high quality green, gold — and now red — kiwifruit year-round.

"Along the way, Woodyear-Smith earned the respect and admiration of colleagues throughout the world for his collaborative leadership style, grace under pressure and steadfast integrity," Smith said.

“If there was a Kiwifruit Hall of Fame, Steve would hold a place of honor,” he said. “Nobody in the industry knows it better. And because he’s shared his knowledge with the amazing team following in his footsteps, we’re well-positioned for the future, as we wish Steve all the best in his retirement.”

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