Chris Nelson, president and chief executive officer of Mixtec Group, an executive search firm in the produce industry, has announced his retirement from the company. Nelson will be succeeded by Jerry Butt, who will assume the role of president and CEO effective June 30.
For more than 40 years, Nelson has served the produce industry in executive and volunteer leadership roles. He joined Mixtec Group in 1998 and was responsible for successfully shifting the company’s recruiting focus exclusively to the fresh produce industry.
“Chris transformed our business,” Ward Fredericks, Mixtec Group founder, said in a press release. “His extensive relationships in the produce industry provided us opportunities for tremendous growth. More importantly, his energy, incredible business acumen and passion for excellence delivered the highest level of client value. Mixtec is the industry leader today as a direct result of Chris’ vision and influence.”
Under Nelson’s direction for the past 15 years, Mixtec has expanded the scope of its business and influence on the industry.
"I feel honored to consider Chris Nelson and the team he assembled at Mixtec my friends and partners," Bryan Silbermann, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association, said in the release. "I've known Chris for many years and have learned much from him, both as a pioneering marketer of fresh-cut produce and as an executive recruiter bringing the finest talent to leading companies in our industry. He's also helped PMA to recruit the best and the brightest executive team we needed to serve our members. That expertise has propelled a lot of our growth in the past decade. All of us at PMA wish Chris the best in his next great challenge — finding a way to slow down in retirement!"
Prior to joining Mixtec Group, Nelson served eight years as the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ready Pac, during which time annual sales grew from $40 million to $240 million. “Chris led Ready Pac during one of the most exciting times in our history,” Dennis Gertmenian, founder of Ready Pac, said in the release. “He helped put us on the map as a national player. He’s always been highly successful with an engaging style that has served him and the produce industry well.”
Nelson also served as president of Overhill Farms and vice president of S&W Fine Foods. Like many produce executives, he was born and raised in the industry. His father, Ted Nelson, was the founder and co-owner of Royal Packing Co., one of the larger grower-shippers of lettuce in California.
As a longtime industry leader and spokesperson, Nelson served on numerous boards, including California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, Passport Food Group, Produce for Better Health Foundation, Fresh Produce & Floral Council, International Fresh-cut Produce Association and Ready Pac Produce. Bob Gray, president and CEO of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation said, "As a non-alumni director, Chris served in a special role guiding and steering the foundation, and the program, in a direction that would be beneficial to industry. His energy and enthusiasm were infectious, his network of contacts was second to none and he made a lasting impact. We are grateful for his efforts to shape the people, and therefore the future, of California agriculture.”
Butt, who will succeed Nelson as president and CEO, has served as a senior partner and executive vice president at Mixtec for 15 years. Prior to that he served in management roles with Ready Pac Produce and Caulkins Groves. Additionally, he has served the industry through the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program, United Fresh Produce Leadership Program board of directors, Pack Family/PMA Career Pathways Program mentor and Produce for Better Health Foundation board of directors.
“I am honored to be following in Chris’ footsteps. We will build on the solid foundation of integrity and exceptional customer service he established and I’m excited to continue to serve this great industry,” Butt said in the release.
Nelson will maintain an active role at Mixtec Group as a strategic advisor while also enjoying well-deserved time off to travel and spend time with his wife, Tess, and their children and grandchildren.
“We have been working on a succession plan for some time,” Nelson commented. “The move to shift Jerry and Kristen Reid, executive vice president, to equity partners responsible for managing the business has resulted in two consecutive record years. Jerry is a natural to lead Mixtec going forward. He is well-known and respected within the industry and has the experience and broad-based knowledge required to help our clients continue to secure the very best executive leaders. I can’t think of a better time to step back. Mixtec Group celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and is enjoying its best years ever. It’s great to leave on such a high note.”