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United of Idaho Hires CEO

United Fresh Potato Growers of Idaho (United) has announced it hired the former president of Embasa Foods as its CEO.

Jerry Wright, 53, of Idaho Falls, was hired by United's board of directors to serve as the potato co-op’s initial CEO.

United signaled its commitment to succeed in unifying the Idaho potato industry by hiring a CEO with a track record of major successes, said Albert Wada, United’s chairman.

“Mr. Wright took six smaller Mexican food companies, rolled them under the Embasa umbrella, and turned a four-year decline in sales into sales increases of nearly 9 percent,” Wada said. “That kind of performance is not often seen in a mature business like Mexican foods.”

Wada said Wright’s record has set a high level of expectations, but he added, “we expect him to be up to the task, and more importantly, he carries those high expectations for himself.”

Embasa Foods was later renamed Authentic Specialty Foods (ASF). Its flagship brand is La Victoria. It is now a $100 million dollar company that employs 250 people. Before leading ASF, Wright worked in brand management positions with General Mills, H.J. Heinz and Hunt Wesson. He has worked on major brands like Kix and Total cereals, Nature Valley Granola and Peter Pan peanut butter.

“Jerry is going to be the unifying tie for the Idaho potato industry,” said Dave Beesley, a United board member. “We’ve had structures like United in place before, but hiring a man like Jerry Wright as CEO is a step that no one has ever taken before.

“This shows the Idaho industry that we are very serious in our commitment to succeed in leading the industry to a profitable future.”

Jeff Raybould, former Idaho Potato Commission chairman and United board member, said Wright brings credentials to his new job that are impressive.

“We strongly believe that Jerry will be every bit as effective in his position as Frank (Muir) has been in his (as Idaho Potato Commission president),” Raybould said. “We are very fortunate to be able to find someone of his caliber to lead United through this critical period.”

Hiring Wright sends a strong message to the rest of the country that Idaho is ready to take the lead in moving the industry past the difficult years it has experienced over the last decade, Raybould said.

Wright holds a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Brigham Young University.

Visit http://www.unitedpotato.com to learn more about United's activities.

Originally posted Monday, Feb. 21, 2005

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