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Serving: West

Produce icon Tom Tjerandsen, 80, passes

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He worked to promote California apricots and other tree fruit, Washington cherries, and Hawaiian papaya and pineapple.

The West Coast's produce industry is mourning the passing of noted international produce marketer Thomas C. Tjerandsen of Sonoma, Calif., who died Nov. 8 after a short illness. He was 80.

Tjerandsen was a founder and 25-year executive director of the Pomegranate Council and was a leader in the California Agricultural Export Council, focusing on several specialty crops, according to an obituary from the CAEC.

His 60-year career included work with leading advertising agencies such as Ketchum, McCann Erickson, and J Walter Thompson working with California apricots, Washington cherries, and Hawaiian papaya and pineapple. In 1991, he founded his own firm in partnership with Barney McClure, each having long experience working with marketing boards, exporters and retailers in the promotion of fresh fruit sales.

Based in San Francisco, McClure and Tjerandsen pioneered the concept of summer fruit from South America sold to American consumers in winter. Their work with the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) came to involve a multi-million dollar marketing program covering Chilean stone fruit, berries, kiwifruit, cherries, apples, pears and more recently, Hass avocados.

Tjerandsen’s family estimates that something over 6 million boxes of Chilean produce were exported as a result of his work. While McClure died in 1996, Tjerandsen continued the firm and its work internationally. He made over 100 trips to Santiago where he became a well known and popular figure with industry leaders, exporters and growers.

Born in Manhattan, Kansas, Tjerandsen graduated from Hobart College in Upstate New York and served a two-year stint in the U.S. Army based in Panama. Returning to the U.S., he earned an MBA from San Francisco State University, remaining in the Golden State for the rest of his life. During his career he taught classes there and after stepping back from his CFFA work, he continued to share his wealth of experience as a counselor with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), advising fledgling business owners.

His longtime friend and industry colleague, Fred Klose of the California Agricultural Export Council says, “Tom embodied the traditional spirit of California. There was no task too big, no obstacle too insurmountable, no flight too long, no hardship too great – that with patience and elbow grease all could be accomplished. He truly lived life to the fullest.”

Tjerandsen’s wife of more than 50 years, Ruth, says that memorial arrangements will be set sometime in January 2023.

Source: California Agricultural Export Council
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