Originally from Hungary, Örzse Hódi has significant experience in the Food and CPG environment.
Prior to her role as Vice President of Marketing of the Dole Sunshine Company, she was the Vice President of Marketing and Innovation at Foster Farms, where she was responsible for $1.4b in foodservice and retail businesses. Örzse was accountable for the full P&L, brand equity, category innovation, and capital investment strategies.
Going back even further in her career, Örzse also held leadership positions with the fresh bakery division of Grupo Bimbo Bakeries. At Grupo Bimbo, she gained exposure to and strong familiarity with the Latin American market, conducting numerous market and plant tours throughout Mexico and Colombia.
Learn more about Örzse Hódi in our interview with her below.
Our Interview with Örzse Hódi: Vice President of Marketing of the Dole Sunshine Company
Tell us a little bit about your professional journey – starting with college. What did you go to school for? What did you major in, and why?
I’m originally from Hungary. I went to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in commerce. I went on to get my MBA from the Henley Business School in the UK where I focused on marketing.
I was recruited out of college to Maple Leaf Foods into the management training program. I worked in customer service, supply chain, demand planning, a bit in sales as well prior to moving to marketing. The food industry attracted me because of the wealth of opportunities – from creativity, to health and nutrition, to give back opportunities and more. There is so much to be done when it comes to food, and the industry will always be important.
After working with Maple Leaf Foods, you departed the food industry to start your own marketing consulting business. What motivated you to take the leap of starting a business?
I saw a great need for bringing marketing discipline to small business owners. Small business owners are juggling HR, finance, and operational priorities, and often marketing is overlooked or an afterthought. I worked on business expansion plans for local businesses, product and service assortment strategies, as well as consumer acquisition plans. It was incredibly rewarding to help entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life.
What was the most difficult challenge you faced as a business owner? How did you navigate it?
Selling a service is challenging and requires trust. Specifically working with business owners can be very much based on a personal connection, on one’s ability to inspire others. Having expertise opens the doors but interpersonal skills and the ability to express one’s passion for what they do is the key. This is no different in the corporate world. Challenging myself at a young age to take a personal approach to client relationships and not solely rely on facts and processes changed my leadership style forever. I carry this with me today.
You eventually came back into the corporate world where you had a leadership role within the fresh bakery division of Grupo Bimbo Bakeries. What enticed you back into the corporate world after being an entrepreneur?
People and the opportunity to build something amazing with them. We worked hard to build a division within a larger corporation. The team consisted of passionate, hardworking people. For us, it wasn’t a corporate business, it was OUR business to win or lose.
Tell us a bit about your day-to-day as the Vice President of Marketing with Dole Packaged Foods, Americas? What you love most about what you do?
I joined the Dole Sunshine Company team in March 2021 as Vice President of Marketing. The Dole brand is an incredible American brand with a great legacy, but the growth potential is enormous. Consumers are looking to us to make healthy and sustainable moves, and produce new products that follow that. In 2020, we launched the Dole Promise. We’re making continuous progress on the goals outlined within–contributing to good nutrition for 1 billion people by 2025, having zero processed sugar in our products by 2025, carbon neutrality by 2030, zero fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025, and zero fruit loss by 2025. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this, and watch the world take notice.
What’s been the most challenging moment of your corporate career, and how did you overcome it?
I think without fail every businesswoman has a memory of the choices they have to make between their career and their family. My first executive role came the day before my second daughter turned 2.
The moment I was given the promotion, fear hit me. I did not think that I could be successful in fulfilling both roles effectively. We are told that it is not possible, over and over again. So I make sure I always choose the moments I want to own in my career and in my personal life.
Choose moments wisely, then own them and dedicate yourself fully. This is my motto.
What advice would you give someone who is going into a leadership role for the very first time?
Focus on building your team and clearing the path for them to perform. Do not focus on the tasks, focus on the people and make sure each one of them understands how they contribute to the team. Remove the roadblocks that stop them. It starts with people, and performance and results will follow naturally.
What is one piece of self-care advice that you would offer?
Be choiceful about allocating your time. Do not multitask. Focus, no matter what you are doing: work, family, vacation, etc. The health benefits are impactful to your brain and spirit.
As a wife and mother, how do you handle work/life balance? What advice would you offer to other women who want to become moms – but are also passionate about their careers?
It’s ok to ask and get help. Invest in it early on. Talk to your kids about the successes you have, they will be so proud of you! When you leave for a trip or cannot be there, do not apologize. Change the tone instead of, “I’m so sorry I can’t be there. I have to work.” Say, “I have this exciting presentation that I cannot wait to deliver to our clients. I wish I could be at your recital, but I really want to do this too. I hope you understand…I will make sure we watch the video together!”
Now that I have pre-teen and teen kids, I know this was the right approach! They are so proud of me and love to see me off on business trips and excited to hear what I achieved. They share their achievements, too.
What has really helped you grow (personally and professionally) in the challenging year of 2020?
- I gained an even closer understanding in crisis management and how to keep people focused beyond the crisis. We continued to work on innovation in a supply-challenged business, where crisis was the everyday conversation. We knew when the lights came back on, we could be even better!
- Our promise to provide good nutrition to everyone guides every decision that we make. We focused on that and delivered game-changing category strategies and marketing plans. We’re also focused on always assuring the best quality and right nutritional profiles with our products, expanding our product lines and categories, and expanding availability.
- We are seeking to close the nutrition gap in the United States, and recently ran a campaign highlighting malnutrition in many of the foods we consume with “Malnutrition Labels” projected in major cities where it is an especially large problem: Baltimore, New York, and Los Angeles. Recently, we launched a $2 million fund that will support global strategic partnerships and innovation in the areas of sustainability, food access, and waste called the Sunshine for All Fund.
Learn more about Dole Sunshine on their official site at: https://dolesunshine.com.
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