World Fresh adds key executive as part of aggressive growth strategy
World Fresh Produce, an importer and marketer of high-quality produce from around the globe, has added a former Walmart produce veteran to its executive ranks as part of an aggressive growth strategy.
Patrick Haines, who spent nearly 35 years at Walmart in a variety of merchandising-related roles, joined World Fresh Aug. 29 as executive vice president of the five-year-old company.
“We feel honored to have Patrick come on board,” said Michel Matouk, president of World Fresh, which is based in Cherry Hill, NJ, just outside of Philadelphia. “We’re very proud to have someone with his background partake in this venture with us. He brings a lot of technical finesse and expertise, and he will help take us to the next level.”
Haines joined Walmart in 1988 and was involved with the development of the first Walmart Supercenters. From 1988 to 1999, he worked in various merchandising roles including buying and store layout, rising to the position of senior buyer.
In 1999, he undertook a similar challenge of helping to roll out Walmart’s Neighborhood Market concept, when the retailer decided to experiment with a smaller grocery format.
“I was there from the time we rolled out the first store until we got to 100 stores in 2003,” said Haines.
After a short stint in the bakery division at Walmart, where he helped establish that as a more efficient and productive branded division, he was offered an opportunity to join Walmart Innovations, the retailer’s internal strategy division.
“At Walmart Innovations, I worked with the merchant leadership to help establish strategy,” said Haines. “One of those strategies was to implement Walmart Global Produce Sourcing.”
While working on the implementation of that program, Haines was approached with the opportunity to relocate to Costa Rica and establish an office there to focus on procuring tropical fruit such as pineapples and mangos, as well as fresh flowers. He worked there for seven years before moving to Chile to run the Global Produce Sourcing office there. He remained in that location from 2017 until returning to the Walmart home office in Bentonville, AR, earlier this year and subsequently joining World Fresh in August.
Asked what drew him to World Fresh, Haines said he became familiar with the company earlier this year through a mutual acquaintance, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“Their entrepreneurial spirit and the passion for the business piqued my interest,” he said. “Getting involved in something up-and-coming, which is something that I enjoyed at Walmart, really drew my attention. It is a passion of mine to be involved with businesses and help them grow and expand. And then after getting to know Michel and Adriana of World Fresh, it really felt like a good fit and also a great challenge for me at this point of my career.”
Haines said he is looking forward to bringing the knowledge and experience he amassed during his Walmart career to World Fresh.
“Working within the Walmart culture is like taking a master’s class in leadership and business management, and I am excited to apply some of those lessons learned to my role here at World Fresh,” said Haines. “Also, I can now learn and understand the business from a different perspective than the retail side, so I will be looking forward to doing that by working with various industry experts.”
One of those industry experts is John Lazopoulos, a 40-year produce veteran who joined World Fresh soon after its inception as vice president of operations and remains a key part of the organization.
“World Fresh has been very fortunate to have industry leaders among its team, starting with John Lazopoulos, who believed in us and played a pivotal role in our growth from the beginning until now, and as we look into the future,” said Matouk. “Thanks to John, we were able to build a solid team and be where we are today, with Patrick now a part of our team. John helped us establish solid roots in the industry. To know that we have industry leaders that believe in us, we are very proud of that.”
“I think it’s complementary to have Patrick on board with his experience and knowledge of procurement of offshore product,” said Lazopoulos. “It will give us and our retail customers a better understanding of each other. That’s important for our growth, and Patrick will be instrumental in taking us to the next level.”
“What’s nice for an importer like World Fresh is that although we obviously have our own perspective of the industry, it’s equally valuable to have someone from the proverbial ‘other side’ -- the retail side,” Adriana Borsellino, marketing manager of World Fresh, said of Haines. “It will help us have an even better view of what is happening in the industry today and into the future. We really feel that this gives us an edge.”
Haines said one of his passions is to help mentor younger industry members and help them grow and succeed in the industry, and he is looking forward to doing so at World Fresh.
“We have strong programs in place now, and we have a very aggressive growth strategy,” said Haines. “We’re planning to expand and add the people that we need to have, and we’ll be looking for industry professionals to fill those roles. World Fresh is a very people-oriented company, and I am looking forward to hearing from people in the industry who feel they can provide additional value for us as we grow.
“World Fresh has access to excellent fruit through its relationship with its growing partners, and it’s really a matter of getting our story out to let the industry know that we are a nimble but very strong and experienced company with nowhere to go but up,” Haines continued. “We have a great trajectory so far, and the sky is the limit with a company like this.”