Back in late December, the Florida Citrus Commission selected Douglas R. Ackerman as the new Executive Director for the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) following a four-month search in the wake of longtime leader Ken Keck’s departure. In the quest for seeking an individual with an advanced understanding of marketing who brings a strong set of leadership skills and diversity of thought to the citrus industry, an Executive Search Committee comprised of six commissioners selected Ackerman after interviewing three candidates from a pool of 114 applicants.
Since his hiring, Ackerman has experienced the whirlwind that goes along with taking on a new job. Florida Grower had a chance to catch up with him to find out more about him and to get his take on what’s in store for Florida citrus.
Q:: Tell us a little about your background (education, past job experience, etc.)?
Ackerman: I’ve worked in marketing for nearly two decades, everything from working at advertising agencies with consumer products, to the restaurant industry, to retail marketing for Publix. All of this experience has prepared me well to help lead the Florida Department of Citrus to deliver on its mission for the citrus industry.
Q: How do you see your time at Publix benefiting your role as the new FDOC lead?
Ackerman: The FDOC is committed to growing the market for Florida citrus. During my time at Publix, we focused on meeting the needs of our customers at the retail level by differentiating ourselves from the competition and illustrating our own unique value. My Publix experience will be invaluable in helping to accomplish our FDOC mission, as well as our goal to increase relevancy of citrus products to our customers.
Q: You came on board right as the Brazilian fungicide issue hit the headlines. How was this for jumping in head first?
Ackerman: It certainly was an interesting first few days on the job. What I noticed right away was the professionalism and dedication of the staff, commissioners, and partners of the FDOC and how we work together to assure Americans that orange juice is safe. Our team continues to monitor the issue closely.
Q: What do you see as the top three issues facing the Florida’s citrus industry right now?
Ackerman: The biggest challenge that we face is keeping orange juice relevant today and reminding Americans that orange juice is a great-tasting and healthy beverage. We also need to maintain and expand our leadership role as the citrus experts in an increasingly global marketplace. We work closely with other industry organizations and participate in discussions with partners all over the world. And, we support research to ensure our own sustainability, such as finding solutions for plant diseases, developing new citrus varieties, and creating more efficient harvesting methods.
Q: In what ways will the FDOC change under your leadership?
Ackerman: Florida citrus is a $9 billion industry employing 76,000 people in the state of Florida. The Florida Department of Citrus has been a marketing organization for more than 75 years and will continue that tradition. We will focus on finding new and innovative ways to integrate citrus into our consumers’ lives. We will be flexible, accountable, and focused on our mission to grow the market for the Florida citrus industry to enhance the economic well-being of the Florida citrus grower, citrus industry, and the state of Florida.