There is a significant blurring of the lines between Pier Luigi Sigismondi’s work and his life at home. For the President of Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods, it’s all about quality and taste with good nutrition being paramount, whether his product is served in a remote area in Africa or at his dinner table in Singapore.
“I love food – I’m Italian,” he says, laughing. “It’s truly part of my heritage. If I can be proud of something that I bring home to my girls, then I feel my life has not just fulfilled a professional purpose but a social one – and that’s what matters most.”
Pier Luigi doesn’t pretend to compete with his “master chef” wife Elvira, but he believes his regular contribution – it could be delicious tropical fruit grown in Asian plantations; or plump, juicy peaches or berries picked from orchards basking in the Californian sun; or one of his favourite, bananas dipped in dark chocolate – isn’t bad for someone whose cooking prowess is limited to “a couple of boiled eggs”.
Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods grows and distributes packaged fruits, juices, nuts and seeds to nearly every country on every continent.
Pier Luigi has been with Dole for 18 months, but he fell in love with the food industry nearly two decades ago working for Nestlé at its head office in Vevey Switzerland, improving its supply chain and industrial operations, and in Mexico as Head of Operations and R&D. He was Unilever’s President South–East Asia and Australasia in Singapore when he was invited to take the helm of Dole and transform the company from a packaged fruit business into more of nutrition and wellness business.
“For nearly 170 years, Dole has been very focused on being a global iconic and efficient business in the food consumer industry, but there is this incredible opportunity to raise the bar and concentrate more on the needs of our customers and expand into new categories offering healthy meals, snacks, beverages and ingredients.
Dole’s major challenge during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis was to meet a growing increase in demand for food throughout Europe, North America and Asia while operating stressed supply chains struggling on staggered production staff. In response to COVID-19, Dole launched sunshineforall.com, which reveals the company’s various initiatives to help those who are at the frontline of the pandemic and the initiatives taken in partnership with global food banks and other organisations to provide fruit in various forms, be it smoothies or meal packs to healthcare workers, the elderly and other vulnerable groups across the world.
“Good nutrition is a human right and we want to close the gap between people and good nutrition. Not just within our current footprint but also expanding the business into new countries, successfully entering India, and starting to sell in Mexico. We have opened a new hub in Dubai that exports to 40 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Europe and Russia.”
Pier Luigi attributes a lot of Dole’s transformational success to its various partnerships, such as PA Consulting.
“Partners are helping us ‘push the envelope’ right from defining our purpose to how we market and brand our offering, to developing the best in food technology and supply chains. Providing automation from our farms to our customers, including sustainable and proprietary packaging and manufacturing solutions, will leapfrog the way we do business,” he says.
Based on the Japanese philosophy of sampo yoshi, which only considers a business ethical if it benefits the buyer, seller and society, Dole has set its sights high with a promise to contribute to the highest level of sustainable nutrition for one billion people by 2025.
The goal is to commit to zero added sugar, zero fruit loss in Dole farms, carbon neutral operations and zero fossil-based plastic.
“We are quite advanced in finding alternatives to plastic, made from natural ingredients, even waste from agriculture, that can be transformed into beautiful packaging,” he explains.
“I get very excited to feel like I’m working on something that is meaningful to me. It gives me the energy to work 24/7.” Arguably, Pier Luigi inherits his work ethic from his immigrant father who, at just 19, fled Italy after World War II to settle in Venezuela and work as a carpenter until opening a lumber business.
“Right now, I am looking at the small suitcase he took with him,” Pier Luigi reflects. “I learned from my dad about the importance of building your future, and it is important to get the most out of life so you can leave a legacy. Living a life just for money doesn’t have meaning for me; my purpose is to build to last.”
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