Chief executive and co-founder set to retire at the end of 2023 with Vanguard Peru chief executive Manuel Yzaga tapped as replacement

The Vanguard International Group chief executive and cofounder Craig Stauffer announced his plans for retirement after an impressive four-decade long career in the fresh produce industry.

Craig Stauffer

Craig Stauffer

Stauffer will retire from his day-to-day business activities effective 31 December, 2023, and will transition to a strategic role on the board of directors of The Vanguard International Group. Manuel Yzaga, the current chief executive of Vanguard Peru has been appointed as Stauffer’s replacement and will take on the role of chief executive of The Vanguard International Group effective 1 January, 2024.

“This is a momentous occasion for our entire Vanguard family as we have had a front row seat to the industry trailblazing road Craig and his team have paved,” the company said in a media release.

“Craig dedicated his career to Vanguard’s people and building a high- performing team, implementing our vertically integrated strategy coupled with our long established third-party grower partnerships to achieve a reliable 52-week global supply solution for our customers around the world, and he guided us through the start-up, growth, and sale of Vanguard International, as well as through the pandemic and global challenges the industry has faced, while having plenty of laughs along the way.”

Stauffer and Guy Kisling founded Vanguard in 1991 with a staff of two people and nurtured the growth of the company into a global enterprise with ten global offices and a high-performing team of produce leaders. During his time as chief executive of Vanguard, Stauffer also led the establishment of Vanguard Peru and Vanguard Direct, which in seven years positioned Vanguard as a global leader in growing and distributing IP seedless table grapes globally.

“As chief executive of Vanguard, Craig made significant contributions to Vanguard International, Vanguard Direct, Vanguard Peru, and the produce industry overall,” said Luis Paz-Galindo, a Blue Road Capital partner and a member of the Vanguard Group’s board of directors. 

“Craig’s vision, foresight, and commitment paved the way for Vanguard to continue its position as a global leader for decades to come. Craig has our full support as he begins this new chapter in his life, and we look forward to having him focused on strategic initiatives at the board level. Furthermore, compliments to Craig, Manuel, Dirk, and the entire Vanguard global team for achieving the successful execution of our vertically integrated business model, and I am excited to support Manuel, Dirk, and the rest of the team to continue the implementation of Craig’s vision.”

Yzaga is set to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the new role. Prior to joining Vanguard in 2017 he served as Sun World’s country representative and consultant in Peru and was responsible for introducing Sun World’s proprietary varieties to Peruvian growers.

Prior to Sun World, Yzaga himself was a table grape grower, shipper, and export sales and marketer in Ica, Peru. At Vanguard Peru, Yzaga has led the team to record breaking harvests and positioned the company as a global grape leader.

“Moreover, Manuel has led the implementation of our strategy and operations in Peru, and his knowledge about all aspects of our business from farming to operations to sales makes him the ideal person to take Vanguard with our vision to the next level,” said Stauffer.

Yzaga said he was committed to the direction of the group.

“I have been closely and carefully following Craig ́s vision of our global business and our vertically integrated strategy, understanding our markets, our partnerships, as well as the why and the how questions,” said Yzaga.

“We have deployed a very potent vertically integrated strategy that we will continue to work, consolidating that vision, with a multi-fruit strategy in Peru and in the future eventually moving to other geographies in addition to our valued third-party strategic partners. I have only words of gratitude to Craig, the board, and all the Vanguard team members, here I commit we will continue to serve our customers with the great quality service we have been known for the past 33 years”.

Dirk Winkelmann, the current president of Vanguard Direct, will also become the Group’s chief commercial officer and the president of Vanguard International USA. Winkelmann rejoined Vanguard in 2015, bringing with him 28 years of industry experience, 12 of which were previously at Vanguard.