You could say that Kent Kuntz was quite literally born into the fresh produce industry growing up on a Washington apple orchard with his family in Chelan, Washington. Kent has been the leader of many categories in his 20+ year tenure with Vanguard. Certainly, in California he is heralded amongst many growers, as Mr. Citrus … unless you are on the Central Coast of California where he just might be Mr. Lettuce! It’s difficult to find a market or a product where Vanguard is involved that has not benefited from Kent’s wealth of experience, truly boots on the ground roots, and let’s get it done positive attitude.
Let’s get to know Kent a little more!
VG: We know that Washington has almost always been home for you; when did you re-locate to Issaquah for work?
Kent: After attending Washington State University where I received my degree in Horticulture, I spent a couple of years fishing commercially in Alaska and was a Ski Patroller at a local ski resort. I then met my future wife and we chose to settle in Seattle where I had to find a real job which lead me to Craig Stauffer and the opportunity to work at Vanguard.
VG: You have seen many changes during your time in the fresh produce world. That now includes managing through a global pandemic – any challenges and pivots as a result of the pandemic that strike you as having the biggest impact on you and how your do your daily business?
Kent: Yes, there have been many challenges and pivots in the fresh produce world for sure over the years and the current pandemic is just another one of them. One of the biggest challenges we are facing now is with shipping operations and logistics. It’s even more challenging now than the port strikes a few years back. All vessels and services continue to delay, and it’s been impossible to get clear information from the carriers about target loading dates and ETA’s.
VG: Whose day to you impact on a regular basis? Who hears from you the most?
Kent: I spend a lot of time on the phone with our inspectors in the field gathering information and updates on how the packing is going for our orders and how the quality is to meet our customers’ needs and requirements. This leads to a lot of discussions with our growers about how their fruit is running so I can coordinate offers and orders with our sales team and customers globally. I also spend a lot of time with our Operations team coordinating our orders and figuring out what vessels to offer and load our shipments on.
VG: What has been a memorable moment of your time with Vanguard?
Kent: Loading charter vessels with apples for the Middle East was a very memorable time for me. I can still remember sourcing 200,000 boxes of apples that all had to be to the port in a 10-day window for the vessel’s loading.
VG: What does your free time look like! Spending time with family, friends?
Kent: I love spending time outdoors with friends and family skiing, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and white-water rafting.
VG: Do you have a favorite produce item? If yes how do you prefer to eat it (Snack? Signature Recipe?)
Kent: There is nothing better than a nice tree ripened yellow flesh peach sliced up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a hot summer day at the lake. Reminds me of my grandma who also loved that.