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Crunch Pak hires Chick-fil-A exec as new CEO

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The nation’s dominant player in sliced-apple snacks announced Aug. 5 it has found a new chief executive officer to replace John Graden, a company founder who revealed last year that he’d leave the post when a replacement was hired.

New CEO Scott Sargent, a former executive for the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, will work with Graden until year’s end to learn the apple-snack business. Graden will then serve as a member of the Crunch Pak board and continue as director of raw product purchasing.

Sargent arrived from his post as food purchasing manager for the Atlanta-based, 1,700-restaurant Chick-fil-A chain, where revenue doubled during his six years at the company. Prior to Chick-fil-A, Sargent worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a global technology consulting firm, and as a manager of emergency planning for Delta Air Lines. He’s a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a navy veteran with five years of active service.

Sargent said Crunch Pak’s rapid growth attracted him to the CEO post. “The innovation at Crunch Pak is exciting, and the fresh produce industry overall is challenging,” he said. “I’m thrilled to join Crunch Pak’s outstanding team and help this market leader expand even further.”

Graden, 60, announced in December that he’d begun the search for the “next generation of executive leadership” for the company. He and partners Tony Freytag and the late Craig Carson founded Crunch Pak in 2000 after developing a formula to keep sliced apples from softening and discoloring.

Under Graden’s guidance, the privately-held Crunch Pak increased sales by 30 percent between 2009 and the end of 2012 to capture 44 percent of the $600 million fresh-cut apple industry. In September, the company nearly tripled production space at its 10-acre facility in Cashmere with a 40,000-square-foot addition. Staffing rose to 700 employees from 500 just one year before.

Crunch Pak produces more than 1 billion sliced apples per year, said company executives. Its products are available in thousands of grocery and convenience stores in the U.S. and Canada.