A number of company failures made 2009 a year many in the fresh produce industry would just as soon forget.

A host of grower-shippers and retailers were marred with various business troubles:

  • New York food retailer Penn Traffic Co. in November filed for bankruptcy.
    The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company, which owns supermarkets in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire under the Bi-Lo, P&C Foods and Quality Markets banners, filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court on Nov. 18.
  • In November, in the week it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Eurofresh Inc. reorganized its executive staff.
    President and chief executive officer Dwight Ferguson, chief financial officer Brian McLaughlin and vice president of human resources David Godfrey were no longer with the company.
    Founder and board chairman Johan van den Berg took over as chief executive officer.
    Van den Berg was also part of an investor group that put $35 million into the Willcox, Ariz.-based company as part of its reorganization plan, which was approved by a bankruptcy court judge in October and allowed the company to emerge from bankruptcy on Nov. 18.
    The company, which owned Eurofresh Produce Ltd. and does business as Eurofresh Farms, filed for bankruptcy on April 21.
  • In July, citing a tough economy, tight credit market and protracted labor woes, Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ Supermarkets Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company closed 10 stores and eliminated 1,000 jobs.
  • Throughout much of 2009, Monterey, Calif.-based Salyer American Fresh Foods grabbed headlines, and in July was ordered to pay $2.9 million in claims filed under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.
    In June, The Packer learned Salyer American had sought a new name and new owner before closing abruptly in May.
  • In July, Red Zoo Marketing, the Ruthven, Ontario, greenhouse grower that closed in early May, was in receivership and selling its assets. The company shipped its last load of tomatoes on May 1.
  • In May, Affiliated Foods Southwest Inc., Little Rock, Ark., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • In March, Greenville, S.C.-based supermarket chain Bi-Lo LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief, announcing plans to reorganize.
  • In March, Chicago-based Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., a huge player in the fresh produce industry, gained final approval from a U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., to receive up to $750 million in debtor-in-possession credit after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 26.
    Smurfit-Stone, a major North American cardboard maker, listed total assets of about $7.45 billion and total debt of about $5.58 billion, as of Sept. 30, in its bankruptcy filing.
    According to news reports, on Dec. 1 Smurfit-Stone filed a plan for ending its bankruptcy case next year. The plan issues new common stock to holders of $2.9 billion in unsecured claims against the company. Smurfit-Stone could emerge from bankruptcy as early as the second quarter of 2010 if creditors approve the plan, reports said.
  • In February, after losing half its market share in the past three years, Birmingham, Ala.-based Bruno’s Supermarkets LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
#4 story of 2009: Companies reorganize, close amid credit, financial strife