The California Prune Board confirmed the newly elected board seats this past June and George Sousa Jr. assumed the role as chairman on of August 1, 2020. George is the President of Mariani Packing Co., Inc., a global dried fruit manufacturing family business in Vacaville, Calif. As a 4th generation family member, George has been with the company since 1982 and has managed all aspects of the organization during this time. He is passionate about prunes and excited to bring his enthusiasm to the board as the new chairman. Read the interview below.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year?
We knew we’d have a short crop this year, so it is important to maintain the programs we have in place and increase grower knowledge and support of the board’s activities. We have to keep communicating with our growers and handlers, executing on our vision and strategic plan, and creating deliverables for our management team and the agencies we use to promote California Prunes. These deliverables will ensure we are getting the results for the money that we are investing.
What will your leadership look like?
The Board is made up of industry leaders and we have all made a commitment to do what’s in the best interest for growers and packers and ensure the long-term health of the entire industry. In particular, the executive committee has made a strong effort to think about the industry as if we were running our own businesses. We look at the executive team as a senior management group and work with the different committees to execute the strategic side.
What makes you confident in the future of the California Prune industry?
There has been a lot of transition in California ag over the last few years, and the prune business has certainly been impacted. While we’ve had a substantial oversupply of prunes, the combination of less acreage and the world supply coming into balance with demand has put us in a much more stable industry position.
The biggest advantage we have is that California Prunes offer all the things consumers are looking for. Prunes are healthy, functional, and portable and we have the research to support it. To me, the key is to work more closely together as an industry, focus on the premium quality of California Prunes, and deliver a value-added product, which will be reflected in the pricing to growers.
To increase demand and consumption of California Prunes, we want to continue to highlight the incredible nutrition research with the media, our partners, and with influencers who educate others. Our management team is committed to strengthening and growing demand. Together with our in-country agencies, we have a well-coordinated effort to promote California Prunes with a consistent message.