Staff Reporters
Jun 17, 2021

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Rupen Desai, Dole Sunshine

An accidental marketer and outspoken DEI advocate, Desai is pushing his company to rethink the way it spends its marketing dollars.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Rupen Desai, Dole Sunshine
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Rupen Desai

Chief marketing officer
Dole Sunshine
New member

Rupen Desai is the global CMO for Dole Sunshine and oversees marketing for more than 100 markets for the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables. In the 18 months he has been in charge, Desai, an accidental marketer who first dreamt of being an engineer while growing up in India, has been moving forward based on a different blueprint for his company. 

To make a professional and personal impact, Desai has spearheaded Dole’s brand purpose with the Dole Promise, a manifesto which aims to address food insecurity and sustainability. According to Dole, this promise includes six important targets: 

  • Increasing access to sustainable nutrition to 1 billion people in four years
  • Zero use of processed sugar in the same time 
  • No fruit loss from Dole farms 
  • Rethinking packaging by eliminating fossil-based plastic packaging 
  • Net zero carbon emissions by 2030 
  • All this even as Dole aims to increase the value of its business by 50% by 2025.

As he goes about building—or rebuilding—Dole’s purpose, Desai has shown that he is unafraid to take an uncompromising stance on topics such as LGBTQIA+ rights. For example, when Dole debuted its ‘Normal-ish’ campaign, featuring two dads fumbling through and failing to go on a date after a long time, the depiction earned the ire of the conservatives. But Desai stuck by his plans and the ad stayed on air. 

Prior to Dole, Desai was Edelman’s vice-chairman across Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. During this time, he also led Edelman’s Women’s leadership network for the region. He began his career with MullenLowe, where he spent two decades, leading the Asia-Pacific region for the last six. In his role at Dole, he oversees a global marketing and innovation budget of over $100 million. 

Through the pandemic, Desai has been busy pushing Dole’s purpose plans and finding new ways to channel his marketing dollars. For example, Dole joined forces with acclaimed artist David Datuna to create an NFT (non-fungible token) collection inspired by the brand’s Sunshine for All slogan. The aim was to increase awareness of food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide, while raising funds toward alleviating hunger today. 

Then, Dole announced the creation of Sunshine for All, a $2 million annual fund that will support global strategic partnerships and innovation in the crucial areas of sustainability, food access and waste. The fund was launched with ‘The Growing Distance’, a short film that addresses the critical gaps the company sees as barriers to good nutrition for all.

Desai has used a variety of means to address key issues that affect him and Brand Dole. For instance, ‘Malnutrition Labels’, is an experiential initiative designed to shed light on the barriers to good nutrition: accessibility, affordability, food waste and the need for education. The campaign kicked off in New York, Los Angeles, and Baltimore with a series of larger-than-life projections meant to call attention to the issues. The campaign will continue in the US and Singapore.

As a global CMO sitting in Asia, Desai has presided over other campaigns that have had their impact far from Singapore. For instance, Dole’s ‘Sunshine for All Cities’ initiative brings nutritious food and education into underserved food deserts. The firm started with a pilot in Jackson, Mississippi, in The US, and is expanding to the US city of Baltimore later this year. 

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


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