(UPDATED COVERAGE, Sept. 16) Prodded by continuing retail consolidation that made running its medium-sized citrus-packing operation a challenge, the four grower-owners of Orange Cove, Calif.-based Sunny Cove Citrus LLC are selling their packing shed to Booth Ranches LLC, an Orange Cove company that is in expansion mode.
Sunny Cove will cease operations, and its owners and a handful of other growers will move their fruit to other marketers and packers yet to be determined, said Brian Bertelsen, one of the owners and chairman of the board.
Some of their product may end up in the Sunkist system, he said.
The company’s sales staff — Keith Wilson, Roman Sowala, Selina Brown and Ron Wynn along with general manager Tom Clark — will not be hired by Booth Ranches, said Neil Galone, Booth Ranches vice president of sales and marketing. However, some members of the packinghouse crew will make the transition.
The deal is expected to close in early October, just as the fall citrus season starts to gear up. Booth Ranches expects to ship just under 2 million cartons of navels this year and about 700,000 cartons of valencias.
Sunny Cove typically packs 1.5 million to 2 million cartons of navels, valencias, minneolas and lemons, Bertelsen said.
The agreement did not include any orchard acreage and will not result in an increase in volume for Booth Ranches, however Galone said the company already farms 9,000 acres and, with new trees coming on line, expects to ship 4 million cartons of navels alone by 2012.
The acquisition “sets us up for future growth,” he said.
Booth Ranches grows oranges and some specialty citrus but only packs navel and valencia oranges.
The company will continue to operate its existing Orange Cove packinghouse but no longer will use its Porterville, Calif., facility, where it has packed during the peak citrus months.
The 170,000-square-foot Sunny Cove shed built on 11 acres “is a big upgrade from the house we had in Porterville,” Galone said, and should allow the company to put up a more consistent pack.
The firm had been planning to expand and was considering building a new facility when the ownership of Sunny Cove made it known that its shed could be for sale, Galone said.
Sunny Cove shipped about 300,000 cartons of citrus under the Green Giant label, said Keith Wilson, Sunny Cove’s vice president of sales and marketing. But Galone said he had no plans to continue the Green Giant marketing deal, which is owned by Growers Express LLC of Salinas, Calif.
“I have no specific plans at this point to be part of that,” he said.
Green Giant likely will seek another source of California citrus, said Sarah Wangler, senior marketing manager for Minneapolis-based Green Giant Fresh/The Sholl Group II Inc. But what that source might be has not been determined.