Aug 15, 2023
Indoor strawberry grower names COO
Oishii, a vertical farming operator, has appointed Rita Hudetz as chief commercial officer.
Hudetz’s consumer packaged goods background will add to Oishii’s executive leadership team. Hudetz will lead Oishii’s growth strategy, scaling the company’s retail footprint, overseeing new market entries and driving product launches, according to a news release.
“Innately blending operations experience with a long track record of successfully managing customer and distributor relationships, Hudetz will accelerate Oishii’s mission to reimagine the future of food through the company’s indoor vertical strawberry farms,” the company said in the release.
Hudetz brings more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and operations for retail and consumer packaged goods brands. Prior to joining Oishii, Hudetz was general manager of Milk Bar’s Grocery Division, where she expanded the company’s ice cream business, developed a new Crunchies cookies line and negotiated a partnership with General Mills to release a line of Milk Bar cookie doughs.
She also was chief operating officer of the Universal Standard fashion leader, where she changed the company’s operations to accelerate revenue growth and support improved profitability. As the chief executive officer of Hu Kitchen, Hudetz expanded the chocolate bar line and helped to build national distribution and online platforms. Hudetz also led the company during a venture investment from a Mondelez snack division in 2019. Hudetz was at PepsiCo where she was promoted to director of strategy in PepsiCo’s Global Nutrition group.
“As an operator and strategist, Rita’s accomplishments are unparalleled. We are so glad to have her on our team during a major inflection point for Oishii’s brand,” Brendan Somerville, Oishii’s co-founder and chief operating officer, said in the release. “We’re growing quickly in a time when others are slowing. Rita’s expertise will help us bring our delicious, clean strawberries to consumers nationwide.”
Oishii — which means ‘delicious’ in Japanese – grows non-GMO Project Verified and pesticide- free berries in modern indoor vertical farms. The company touts itself as the first vertical farming company to perfect the strawberry at commercial scale. It marries nature, technology and farming techniques perfected for decades in Japan to grow its prized fruit, which is pollinated naturally with bees and grown with zero pesticides, according to the release.
“Mission matters to me – and the team at Oishii has demonstrated how committed they are to disrupting the agriculture industry with a superior, pesticide-free product that consumers love,” Hudetz . “I was sold on Oishii after I watched my two daughters choose the delicious berries over candy. As a mom, I’m proud to be working on a product that I feel will pave the way for the future of food. I am honored to officially be part of the team as we enter a major period of accelerated growth and as our technology continues to perform.”
While Oishii strawberries aren’t USDA certified organic, the company promotes them as superior to organic. “Our berries are better than organic,” according to Oishii’s website. “We only use natural pest control methods with zero sprays or pesticides, not even organic ones.”
Oishii’s indoor farming operations grow Omakase and Koyo berries, both Japanese strawberry cultivars, in pesticide-free environments in the company’s vertical farms in Jersey City, New Jersey, outside of Manhattan.