Sun Capital Partners acquires Sunrise Growers

07/01/2008 12:00:00 AM
John Chadwell

(July 1, 2:27 p.m.) Private investment firm Sun Capital Partners Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., has purchased Placentia, Calif.-based Sunrise Growers Inc., which is primarily known for its frozen strawberries, but also ships fresh berries.

Ed Haft, Sunrise president and chief executive officer, said the company’s high-volume dedicated supply of fresh strawberries attracted Sun Capital Partners. The company ships 7 million trays of fresh strawberries and 130 million pounds of frozen strawberries annually.

“Not a lot of people have the ability to be in fresh and frozen,” Haft said. “In terms of supply for both sides of the business, we have more control than just being a broker or shipper.”

The acquisition was finalized June 24. Terms were not disclosed.

Sunrise, along with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is the leading supplier of frozen strawberries and in the top six fresh strawberry suppliers, Haft said. It also grows and distributes fresh red bell peppers.

The company distributes fresh berries to foodservice and retailers primarily in the U.S. and Canada, and exports a small amount to Japan under its own brands as well as private label programs, Haft said.

Haft said the present management would stay in place.

“We are now part of their portfolio, and (Sun Capital Partners) hold(s) the existing management team responsible for moving the business in the right direction,” he said. “They have vast economic resources, and that allows us to expand or accelerate our strategies faster than we might have on our own.”

He said the company’s management has told Sun Capital what it would like to do and that the investment company is supportive of the strategies.

“Our previous owner, Heritage Partners, was not in a position to continue to support our growth,” he said. “We were very fortunate to align with Sun Capital. The availability of funds will make it easier to execute initiatives, whether it be expanding our land base or adding new products.”

He said the company would remain an independent operation as a privately held company within Sun Capital.

Sunrise has focused on growing strawberries and red peppers in California for more than 10 years. Haft said the company has been expanding its fresh program 10% to15% annually.

“Strawberries are the predominant part of our fresh program,” he said. “We grow in Orange County, Oxnard, Santa Maria and Salinas-Watsonville areas.”

He said the company has been seeing a steady expansion in demand for strawberries.

“This is a crop that consumers once thought of as seasonal, but now we’re offering it pretty much 12 months a year,” he said. “On the fresh side, we’ve seen a consistent demand growth of about 7% year-in and year-out. As more people come to understand that you can get great tasting berries from California all year long, we’ll continue to expand.”

He said with the availability of cash the company hopes to improve its grower operations, yields and quality in its fresh packs and strengthen it vertical integration, which would include controlling every aspect of their operation from choosing nursery stocks through distribution to retailers and the foodservice operators.

Calls to Sun Capital Partners were not returned.



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