My farm roots, more merger talk and the threat of juice - The Packer

My farm roots, more merger talk and the threat of juice

07/24/2012 01:59:00 PM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstFormer Packer editor and colleague Donna Vestal now works for Harvest Public Media. She recently interviewed me for a "My Farm Roots" feature. Check that out here, and the Harvest Public Media home page here. More "Farm Roots" features are coming, Donna says.

My  farm roots are tied to family, and I am grateful for my step-dad's gracious and steady hand as I worked with him on his Nebraska farm for several years as a teenager.

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I saw a post from Perishable Pundit Jim Prevor about the failed United-PMA merger. Prevor seems to be carrying PMA's water on the merger issue, in my view.

Again, it is my feeling that both PMA and United's boards should not have let the leadership issue linger until the end. If it was a deal-breaker, let it be early rather than late.

One industry leader I visited with said PMA and United should not  "belly up" to the merger bar anytime soon.

Why not? The source invoked Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Secret meetings, closed door negotiations, terse updates to members - that approach should not be trotted out again.

All I can say at this stage is that association leaders have a more realistic picture of the challenges facing Congress and government regulators. Shouldn't it be easier to forge a compromise with like-minded leaders of the same industry than it would be for 535 members of Congress?

Don't be so chagrined the next time Congress turns a cold shoulder on long-sought legislation that benefits the industry. You know exactly how tough it is to deliver at crunch time.

One source posited that the industry would be better off if the association not involved with representing the industry to Capitol Hill leave the Beltway and set up shop in California. I guess the thought is that the temptation to "speak for the industry" is too much of a power trip and is best to be avoided by removing staff from proximity to Washington, D.C.. Thus, such a move would eliminate what to some is all-too-obvious overlap between the groups. A captivating but doomed idea...

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Leaving merger talk behind (for now), check out the new Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group poll question,

Which form of processed fruits and vegetables represents the biggest potential to decrease fresh produce consumption?

A. Frozen

B. Canned

C. Juice

D. Dried

 

So far, "canned" is the leading vote getter. I have been reading more reports about the explosive growth of juices. Check out this report about Starbucks growth in juices, and here for a news item about a Smoothie marketer making hay with kale. A Barron's cover story "Drink Up!" has this subhead: America is finally eating its vegetables -- from a bottle. How fresh juice is becoming big business for Starbucks and your local juice bar.

From the story:

Juicing, as a meal replacement or mere refreshment, has become a $5 billion business, and is projected to grow by 4% to 8% a year. While juice fasts, or cleanses, have long been used to shed unwanted pounds, the latest craze is best viewed as part of a national move, especially among people in their 20s and 30s, toward healthier eating and greater consumption of raw and organic produce -- in this case, conveniently packaged and easily quaffed on the run.

Later...

Two weeks ago, for example, Campbell Soup (ticker: CPB) announced it will buy Bolthouse Farms, a seller of produce and premium juices, from the private-equity firm Madison Dearborn, for $1.55 billion, in a bid to boost its presence in higher-margin refrigerated foods. Sales of Campbell's traditional, shelf-stable V8 vegetable juice have stagnated in recent years, although the company has generated growth by extending the V8 brand to jazzier fruit and vegetable beverages.

 

TK: I initially leaned toward "frozen" but juice gets my vote as the processed fruit and vegetable form that could create the most competition for fresh produce in the coming few years. Yet some are asking: is juicing healthy or hyped?



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