New Talent Key to Future Growth of Florida Citrus

Bob Behr rocking out as Citrus Achiement Award winner

Dr. Bob Behr appreciates the challenges citrus growers face because he is one himself. And, like other members of Florida’s Natural, his fruit goes into the brand’s juice products.
Photo by Frank Giles

This is the first installment of four special features honoring the 2019 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner, Bob Behr, CEO of Florida’s Natural Growers and Citrus World. Special thanks to UPL USA for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award program.

How important is training and retaining new talent in the state’s citrus industry?
Behr: One of my challenges, as I am at the tail end of my career, is succession planning. Our juice industry, Polk County, and the citrus industry as a whole is challenged from a people perspective. These are not sectors that people are necessarily seeking out to find work. But my success at Florida’s Natural/Citrus World really lies in the hands of our employees who have created a business our grower-owners can be proud of. Our turnover is relatively low by industry standards. We have done a good job in retaining people.

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When you look at our management team, and I think this is probably similar throughout our organization, we demographically skew older. So we are going to have to find people who will carry the business forward. A lot of what we are doing right now is getting our people ready, training them, and bringing others in through intern programs and the like to mentor them to be the future leaders of our co-op. That is certainly an issue on my mind and will continue to be over the next four or five years.

What is your impression of the negative press orange juice has received on nutrition?
Behr: We still need to beat back against the negative press. We all need calories to live, and it is a matter of how you choose your calories. I would argue that orange juice is a nutrient-dense product, as far as calories are concerned. If you have a glass of OJ a day, you are substantially benefiting your nutrient uptake and also getting a good-tasting product without putting too many calories in your system. We have to keep putting that message out there as part of our overall marketing programs.