Employee Spotlight: Juan Melecio, Plant Manager, North America

Juan Melecio started his career at ofi soon after graduating high school, expecting to have a summer job at the local tomato factory that would help him pay for his education—a degree in business and operations management. Melecio kept going back to the factory each summer and signing up for internships where he was able to apply theory learned in the classroom directly into work, and in turn, challenge those theories in the classroom.


Melecio has since grown those summer internships into a career spanning eighteen years and counting, holding several different roles across manufacturing operations for ofi. Starting as a line operator at the tomato factory, he worked his way through supervisory and management roles with the Spices team, to his new role as plant manager where he leads our Oxnard, Calif. private label manufacturing facility. 

“What started as a summer job to pay for my education has turned out to be a career and one that I am very proud about.”

Juan Melecio | Plant Manager

What keeps you interested and engaged at ofi?

I've been working with the same company my entire career and have been fortunate to work across different products, with different leaders and across multiple locations. On any given day, I come across those who I’ve worked with at some point during my career, allowing me to reflect on the great relationships and opportunities I have been afforded by ofi. During this time, I have realized that if one has the dedication and commitment to keep learning, no one will say “no” or hold you back on making your own dynamic career.


I started working out in the factory to working within a corporate support function and now as a plant manager. Throughout this time, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about different challenges we face as a company and figuring out ways to overcome them. When working in continuous improvement and visiting different facilities, I’ve presented teams with various improvement initiatives but not necessarily owned the execution part, aside from following up on a routine basis and helping periodically. Now, in the plant manager role, my team owns the execution portion and I'll be able to use the toolbox of experiences acquired over the years and apply those learnings directly here in [Oxnard, Calif.].


What motivates you when you wake up and come into work?

The satisfaction of being able to work together with my team to identify solutions for different challenges that may arise each day makes my job very interesting and active.


In my role the satisfaction of working with people and getting to know their journey is rewarding because it gives me the ability to connect with others as people rather than just co-workers or employees. Being able to network with peers across multiple product platforms, regions and facilities has been a very enriching experience.


ofi’s new purpose is to Be the Change for Good Food and a Healthy Future; what does that mean to you in your work or on a personal level?

We are an ingredient company that helps put food on people's tables and it is our job to treat our products with dignity and respect because someone’s family will end up eating them. For me personally, that's something that I take to heart. Making sure that as we process our different products, we treat them with the utmost respect.


What do you like to do for fun?

My wife and I went to high school and college together and graduated from each the same year. When we were in college one of the hobbies we started, was to travel for spring break. We kept the tradition alive after college and have traveled to different countries, I believe it's been 17 countries so far. We now have a three-year-old son and a ten-month-old daughter, that combined with the COVID lockdown, we had to put that on hold for a little bit but now that we are excited to keep the tradition going.


Anything you’d like to add to help others succeed?

Every time I get the opportunity, I encourage others to not be afraid to take risks when it comes to writing your own story. So far in my career I've been presented with different opportunities, sometimes they have been very difficult and challenging because it's something that I'm not comfortable with at that specific moment in time. It might be a position or a project that I don't have as much knowledge of for example. But, you can overcome those if you have the commitment and dedication. You need to be ready to accept making mistakes and to learn from them. Just keep moving forward and the reward will be there. It's up to you to look for those opportunities and to make it real.



Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.