(Sept. 13) NAPLES, Fla. — In a partnership that could reshape the berry category, Naturipe Berry Growers has joined forces with Global Berry Farms LLC to offer year-round supplies of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Watsonville, Calif.-based Naturipe, among the largest suppliers of strawberries, has become an equal partner in Global Berry Farms, which is the exclusive sales agent for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based MBG Marketing/Michigan Blueberry Growers Association and Santiago, Chile-based Hortifrut SA.
The three companies — Naturipe, MBG and Hortifrut — now constitute a three-way ownership of Global Berry Farms, which will provide a one-stop shop like no other for berry buyers, officers of the companies said. The sales staffs at Global Berry Farms and Naturipe will officially be combined Nov. 1, said Mike Klackle, who will become the firm’s vice president of sales and marketing.
“No one in the category today matches up with the program we have now moving forward,” Klackle said. “Any day of the year you call Global Berry Farms, we’ll have all four berries. No other company on the planet can make that claim.”
Naturipe provides the firm with the strawberry program Global Berry Farms has been seeking since it was formed by MBG and Hortifrut two years ago, and Naturipe also brings a modest California raspberry program to what is already the strongest Chilean berry deal, officers said.
The firm was already North America’s largest blueberry supplier and a leading source of blackberries, Klackle said.
“This was a very important part of the original strategic plan for Global Berry Farms — to bring a strong strawberry profile to the company,” Klackle said, noting the negotiations with Naturipe date back nearly a year. “That goal seemed to be far more challenging than we thought it would be.”
One key to pulling off the deal: the similar philosophy and organization of the companies as cooperatives closely tied to growers, Klackle said. MBG has been around for 65 years, while Naturipe is the oldest and largest strawberry cooperative, having begun its operations in 1917.
When Klackle becomes the firm’s vice president of sales and marketing, Global Berry Farms’ Brian Bocock will take on a new role as vice president of bush berry sales, which encompasses blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Naturipe’s Craig Moriyama, meanwhile, will become Global Berry Farms’ vice president of strawberry sales.
There will be no layoffs when the sales staffs officially merge, Klackle said.
When Global Berry Farms was formed two years ago, the combined annual U.S. sales of its partners — Hortifrut and MBG — was $65 million, officers said at the time. Klackle said the company will easily surpass $100 million in annual sales with the addition of Naturipe, with about one-third of the total coming in strawberry sales.
“Those are conservative numbers,” he said.
Further growth for the company will likely come in domestic raspberry production and winter strawberry supplies from Florida, Klackle said.
Naturipe produces strawberries exclusively from California, and Global Berry’s Florida production was minimal.
Naturipe’s strawberry label will continue in the short term, said John Corrigan, Naturipe’s director of marketing, but “the vision of the partnership will be to move all berries into the Naturipe brand.”
Corrigan said his company has been growing at a pretty fast clip in recent years but wanted to take the proper approach in expanding its berry offerings.
“We have assembled a team of experts who are truly the experts in their fields,” Corrigan said.
Being a one-stop shop for the traditionally fragmented berry category is something unique, he said.
“From the Naturipe side, we have found that with consolidation, buyers are busier and busier and have less time to source product,” Corrigan said. “So we put together a team that, with one phone call, a buyer can get strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, and also a level of service that to this point hasn’t been offered in the industry.”