Industry Preview: Dole’s Global CMO On Why Digital Transformation Is About Way More Than Marketing

Rupen Desai, global CMO of Dole, and his daughters.

Industry Preview is a special, limited-run audio series, featuring interviews with key leaders in marketing, media and technology who share their predictions and key priorities for 2021. This podcast is sponsored by Engine Media Exchange.

You know you’re a good marketer when you can convince a four-year-old that broccoli is a treat.

Although Rupen Desai says he can’t take credit for that particular achievement – his daughter’s love of vegetables is attributable to his wife – it’s one of his missions as global CMO of Dole Packaged Foods to democratize access to good nutrition and help people develop healthy eating habits early in life.

“We are lucky, because we can literally eat our purpose,” said Desai, who joined the 170-year-old brand in April 2019 after stints at Edelman and MullenLowe.

“We don’t make anything, mother earth makes some amazing stuff, and it is our job to bring that goodness in the purest and most natural form we can to people,” Desai says.

One way to accomplish that goal is through the ongoing process of digital transformation, but not just as a way to facilitate marketing.

“If we can harness digital technology to get more nutrition to the have-nots, to me and to everyone at Dole that would be a much bigger digital transformation,” says Desai.

To that end, although COVID-19 has highlighted the ongoing problem of food insecurity – an estimated 54 million people in the United States don’t have regular access to food, let alone healthy food – the pandemic has also helped speed up the process of technology adoption.

In Desai’s view, “the pandemic has probably done far more than any CTO has done for a company in terms of digital transformation.”

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