Russell Hanlin has every right, as president and chief executive officer, to think of Sunkist Growers as his company. But there's more to it than a title and its responsibility.
I have," he says modestly. "I had two years in the Army and several years of working six-hour days."
But soon enough his full-time career moved forward to include several key positions, including international advertising manager and vice president of the Products Group. He became president and CEO in 1978.
Looking back over the years, what is Hanlin most proud of? "There are two things," he says without hesitation. "First, the development of the trademark licensing program so that we could capitalize the company without encroaching on the growers for capital. "In a cooperative, the capital is put up in such a way that it doesn't appreciate, nor does it earn interest. It's put up with after-tax dollars. It's kind of like an initiation fee or an investment in the system. I'm pleased that we found a way to resolve that," he says.
"A cooperative is a system that works on trust," he explains. "It's 6,500 farms that are assigned to Sunkist and most of them are owned by husbands and wives, and some partnerships. There are probably 15,000 people who consider themselves Sunkist growers. There are 65 packing houses that are separately owned -- some of them cooperatives, and some commercially owned. "The challenge is to try to keep that consensus together. To keep it working in the right direction. To have them have the trust and confidence in the system. It's a major thing." Without the cooperative, these growers would be competitors, and the packing houses would fight each other for the growers, according to Hanlin. "We keep them all together in this unique cooperative system," he says. "It's something I've been very proud of."