After completing a degree in industrial engineering, Colombia native Juan Moreno began working in finance. And while that may not seem like a typical course of study for a successful finance executive, Moreno explains, his education was actually an ideal fit for his chosen career path.
“It’s very common in Colombia for industrial engineers to take a lot of courses on economics, management, finance—even accounting,” he shares. “It gave me a broader horizon—I could find a job in operations, a job in management, or a job in finance. Those fields require people who are strong in math, technical skills, and numbers.”
His undergraduate and graduate degrees have motivated Moreno to remain open-minded about opportunities and about what his role at various companies would involve.
“And it has enabled me to adopt and sustain a personal commitment to continuous improvement and learning by integrating fairly quickly into the multiple global environments I have being exposed,” he adds.
Moreno specializes in consumer-packaged goods (CPG)—specifically, plant-based goods. His experience has led him to Blue Diamond Growers in Sacramento, California, one of the nation’s top ten fastest growing food companies where he currently serves as financial director for the global consumer division. In that role, he stewards multiple retail categories under the Blue Diamond brand, including crackers under the Nut-Thins brand and non-dairy products under the Almond Breeze banner.
“I work very closely with the sales, marketing, operations, and innovation leadership teams in developing their strategies and facilitating negotiations with licensing partners,” Moreno says. “We are responsible for ensuring that Blue Diamond’s three thousand growers in California see returns through their participation in the company’s co-op.
“There are multiple almond growers in the California Valley,” Moreno explains. “Blue Diamond Growers is a cooperative of more than three thousand California almond growers and 1,700 team members, and we work in unity to ensure our farms and our brands are sustainable for future generations. Our growers expect that we maximize the returns from their almonds—they are our stakeholders.”
In 1998, Moreno was living in Colombia working at Nestle Purina as a treasurer. He moved to the US and went back to school to earn his MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, after which he landed a job with General Mills in Minneapolis.
His performance at General Mills earned him a promotion to Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), a joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills, where he shared his expertise as regional controller and then director of financial operations in Mexico.
“That was my first experience working in a global joint venture environment. Working for CPW gave me a sense of how one of the longest lasting JVs in the food industry truly exemplifies the principle of ‘Spirit of the Small and Power of the Big,’” he remembers.
“I prefer to see [the pandemic] as an opportunity to shine and to put a stamp on how the team reacts to challenges.”
After about seven years, during which he worked in Miami and Mexico, Moreno returned to General Mills’ Minneapolis offices as senior finance manager. After more than fifteen years with General Mills and Nestle, he was invited to join Blue Diamond Growers in 2016.
“I knew very little about Blue Diamond Growers,” he recalls. “I knew something about plant-based [food], but I quickly realized the value of Blue Diamond Growers’ leadership position and the fact that they had effectively managed an ambidextrous business—a business that is partially CPG competing in multiple categories and partially an almond ingredient business, each one serving the co-op and the co-op owners in different ways.”
While Moreno has built a superb reputation in the consumer goods industry, that wasn’t necessarily his plan.
“Early on, I didn’t see a connection,” he admits. “I didn’t say, ‘I want to work in finance and consumer goods.’ I wanted to work in finance, and I happened to start with Nestle Purina, the biggest consumer goods company.”
Soon, though, Moreno found a great passion for his work: today, he takes great pride in guiding the financial strategy that commercializes innovative products he and his family enjoy on store shelves.
“Being an engineer, it’s very easy to relate to consumer product goods,” Moreno says. “You need to understand operations, you need to understand supply chain. You see tangible products developed, and you see great marketing ideas get commercialized through unique strategies in the marketplace.”
Moreno has taken particular pride in his team’s accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s like any other personal or professional challenge,” he says. “I try to see beyond the pain and suffering of many during the pandemic and instead see it as a spotlight on our organizations and teams and on us as leaders—a spotlight where you can shine or be exposed. I prefer to see it as an opportunity to shine and to put a stamp on how the team reacts to challenges.”
Grateful for what he has achieved, Moreno was equally dedicated to giving back through his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity in the Minneapolis area, where he helped build and remodel homes.
“I don’t consider myself a very handy person, but I recognized it as an opportunity where I could help and learn. I wouldn’t say I got better,” he says, laughing, “but it was a rewarding team effort.”
As a law firm, we at Hanson Bridgett LLP recognize that our investment in promoting justice, racial equity, and diversity is more important than ever before. We take pride in our partnership with companies like Blue Diamond that value these same ideals and work towards these same goals. Continued success means hiring, promoting, and mentoring diverse leadership teams. Congratulations, Juan!