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Columbia Marketing International, a grower-shipper of apples, pears, and cherries in Wenatchee, Washington, recently hired marketing and produce industry veteran Steve Lutz as vice president of marketing. The position has been vacant since April when Bob Mast was promoted to President of CMI.

Lutz, born and raised in Wenatchee, was president of the Washington Apple Commission from 1994 to 2000. He left the Apple Commission to co-found the Pershiables Group, a Chicago-based marketing and consulting firm involved with helping organizations understand and merge consumer information and supermarket sales data to develop growth strategies. Lutz’s knowledge of consumer purchasing trends led to speaking engagements and presentations at national and international meetings of groups like Produce Marketing Association, Food Marketing Institute, Canadian Produce Marketing, and the U.S. Apple Association.

Lutz has been active in produce industry organizations, including being a past member of the board of directors of PMA, current member of the Retail/Food Service Board of United Fresh Produce Association, and he is facilitator for the Fresh Foods Executive Committee of the Food Marketing Institute.

“CMI has a legacy of being innovative with its marketing focus, as exemplified with its success of new proprietary varieties like Ambrosia, KIKU, and Kanzi,” Lutz said on the phone to the Good Fruit Grower. “The future of proprietary varieties will depend on connecting with consumers and developing consumer-facing programs to achieve full value of the fruit. I’m excited to add to CMI’s marketing focus and help bring the company to the next level.”

CMI’S Mast said in a news release, “Steve has been studying consumer buying trends and habits for many years and this insight will be very beneficial to CMI as we assist our retail partners in navigating through some very large national crops in the years ahead.”

Lutz received a master’s of business administration from City University in Seattle, Washington, and a bachelor’s degree in communications/advertising from Washington State University. He completed a marketing management program of the graduate school of school at Stanford University.

He’s an avid skier, triathlete, and runner, and competed three times in the Boston Marathon and recently qualified to compete for Team USA at the 2014 Triathlon Age Group World Championships. He’s been married for 30 years and has three sons.

He began his new position on September 9.