LUBBOCK, TEXAS, US — The United Sorghum Checkoff Program on Dec. 9 announced a strategic reorganization of its marketing team. Under the new structure, the Sorghum Checkoff will focus on developing and advancing sorghum as the resource-conserving ingredient and efforts to reveal the potential and versatility of sorghum through increased shared value.

The new marketing team includes longtime Sorghum Checkoff team members who now hold expanded roles from their previous regional marketing positions: Shelee Padgett, director of emerging markets and grower leader development; Brent Crafton, director of feed ingredient utilization; and Zach Simon, director of ingredient utilization and pet food.

Padgett is focused on facilitating international marketing efforts, emerging markets and regional relations as well as the Leadership Sorghum program, which offers various sorghum education programs to young and emerging leaders in the sorghum industry. Crafton is responsible for research and program development in aquaculture, livestock and poultry nutrition programs. Simon is focused on sorghum’s role in the pet food industry, renewable fuels and supply chain infrastructure.

“This team approach to developing valuable markets for sorghum will help showcase and advance sorghum’s versatility across the entire landscape of the diverse end uses for our crop,” said Norma Ritz Johnson, executive director of Sorghum Checkoff. “We are thrilled Padgett, Crafton and Simon — all seasoned members of Team Sorghum — were able to step into these new roles.”

Lanier Dabruzzi is the most recent addition to the restructured marketing team. She joins the Sorghum Checkoff as the director of food innovations and institutional markets and will be responsible for increasing the use of sorghum in the US food supply as an ingredient and stand-alone product. She also will provide marketing and education and identify critical issues and opportunities relating to value-added sorghum marketing opportunities in the food industry.

“Dabruzzi came to us highly recommended for her history of connecting with consumers and the food industry by highlighting the nutritional benefits of the products she has represented,” Ritz Johnson said. “The experience and deep industry insights she has, coupled with her culinary nutrition skills, are the perfect fit as we begin this new chapter. I have never been more excited about our industry’s future.”

Before joining the Sorghum Checkoff, Dabruzzi was the assistant director of food and nutrition outreach for The Dairy Alliance. In that role, she used her in-depth knowledge of food, communications, and marketing to grow sales through food and nutrition trends, nutrition expertise, menu, and product ideation, including working in partnership with MilkPEP on programs and campaigns with the National Football League (NFL) and United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOC).

“I have tremendous respect for our nation’s farmers and the safe, nutritious food they produce for us each day,” Dabruzzi said. “Sorghum has enormous growth potential in the consumer food industry, and I could not be more excited to lead that effort.”

Dabruzzi is a member of the Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Georgia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Dabruzzi received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Southern California in health promotion and disease prevention and a master’s degree in science from the University of Tennessee in Nutrition Science. Dabruzzi has worked with the dairy, beef and almond industries for more than 10 years.

The team approach to the Sorghum Checkoff’s market development efforts was implemented preceding the Dec. 8 retirement of Doug Bice, market development director. Bice devoted eight years to the Sorghum Checkoff and sorghum industry. 

“I would like to thank Doug Bice for his role in bringing added value and demand for US Sorghum farmers,” said Tim Lust, chief executive officer of Sorghum Checkoff. “Bice has been a tremendous advocate and innovator to our organization and our industry.”