In 2019, business consolidation and acquisitions were a continued theme across all aspects of the fresh produce industry. Below are some of the more noteable moves of the past 12 months.

Dec. 13
Global ag company buys Vidalia’s Generation Farms
By Chris Koger

Optimum Agriculture has purchased Vidalia onion grower-shipper Generations Farms LLC, along with almost 5,600 acres of land and packing/processing facilities.

Short term plans for the new owners is to ramp up production of onions and other items, according to a news release.

In June, Grimmway Farms purchased the Lake Park, Ga., and northern Florida operations of Generation Farms. Those properties were not involved in the Optimum Agriculture sale.

Oct. 17
Tosca to acquire Polymer Logistics, uniting RPC suppliers
By Chris Koger

Tosca, a company specializing in reusable packaging and supply chain solutions, has agreed to acquire Polymer Logistics, which offers reusable plastic containers and retail merchandising systems.

Tosca, Atlanta, is purchasing Polymer Logistics from a consortium of private investors, according to a news release. Funds advised by Apax Partners, which acquired Tosca in 2017, will commit additional capital to Tosca for the acquisition, according to the release. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Oct. 1 
Taylor Fresh purchases fresh-cut’s Club Chef
By Chris Koger

Taylor Fresh Foods has purchased the assets of Club Chef, a Covington, Ky., fresh-cut processor owned by the Castellini Co.

Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms in a news release said the facility will continue operating as usual under the “leadership of the Taylor Farms Tennessee operating company.”

Taylor Fresh is Taylor Farms’ parent company.

“Club Chef has a long history of leadership in the foodservice fresh-cut vegetable industry,’ Bruce Taylor, chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms, said in the release. 

“We are honored to complete this transaction and establish a distribution partnership with the Castelilni Co.”

Aug. 21
Mucci Farms acquires controlling interest in Orangeline Farms
By Chris Koger

Mucci Farms, Kingsville, Ontario, has acquired a controlling interest in another Canadian greenhouse grower, Orangeline Farms, Leamington, Ontario, and plans more expansion in the U.S. and Canada.

The deal includes Orangeline’s existing 32-acre greenhouse and a warehouse, along with 100 acres for expansion, according to a news release.

Mucci Farms plans to continue packing under Orangeline’s Zing! Healthy Foods brand.

July 3
Performance Food Group Co. to acquire Reinhart Foodservice
By Tom Karst

Richmond, Va.-based Performance Food Group Co. will acquire Rosemont, Ill.-based Reinhart Foodservice LLC from Reyes Holdings LLC in a $2 billion transaction.

The deal combines the third largest (PFG) and fifth largest (Reinhart) U.S. foodservice distributors, according to data from Technomic.

June 3
Grimmway acquires Generation Farms
By Chris Koger

Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., has acquired Generation Farms, Lake Park, Ga., a grower of carrots and other vegetables.

The southern Georgia and northern Florida facilities and assets of the company in the purchase do not include Generation Farms’ Vidalia onion business, the former Stanley Farms’ operations. Grimmway did not disclose the terms of the transaction

May 24
Jackson Farming buys Wayne E. Bailey
By Jim Offner

Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson Farming Co. has acquired Chadbourn, N.C.-based sweet potato grower-shipper Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co.

Jackson Farming Co. has retained Bailey’s produce sales staff, which Jackson says will help it expand its presence in the sweet potato industry, with the 2019 crop, “while ensuring that Wayne Bailey’s loyal customers continue to receive the highest level of service that they are accustomed to,” said Matt Solana, vice president of operations/supply chain.

May 22
H. Brooks & Co., J&J Distributing acquired, renamed
By Chris Koger

Long-time Twin City produce companies H. Brooks & Co. and its affiliates, and J&J Distributing are being acquired and consolidated into a new company, known as New Harvest Foods, helmed by industry veteran Ron Carkoski.

New Harvest Foods, controlled by The Dragonfly Group, is purchasing H. Brooks and J&J, according to a news release, bringing together the “complementary strengths of both organizations to create a new and stronger healthy foods company called New Harvest Foods.”

Carkoski, who retired in December after serving as CEO of the Four Seasons Family of Companies since 2002, is New Harvest Foods CEO.

H. Brooks was founded in 1905.

May 6
Sun World steps away from farming to focus on genetics
By Chris Koger

Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, Calif., is selling its leased and owned farms to investors that have contracted with Sun Pacific, marketer of Cuties mandarins, to farm the table grape vineyards.

The new entity is called Famous Vineyards.

Sun World CEO Merrill Dibble, in a question-and-answer format accompanying the news release of the land sale, said there has been a “growing interest” in investing more in the breeding and licensing part of the business, known as Sun World Innovations. This move allows the company to concentrate resources on Innovations’ business.

“I’m not exactly sharing state secrets when I say this is a difficult time for agriculture,” Dibble said in the release. 

“Issues largely out of the industry’s control — like competing supply regions, fewer people available to harvest our crops, tariffs, regulation — are enormous market stressors. But we continued to farm and plant for the next harvest and it was fully our intent to do so.”

April 12 
Butterfly buys Bolthouse Farms from Campbell Soup
By Chris Koger

A Los Angeles private equity firm is acquiring Bolthouse Farms from Campbell Soup Co. for $510 million.

Butterfly, which specializes in the food sector, has sign a definitive agreement to buy the carrot and juice company, according to an April 12 news release.

The deal brings former Bolthouse CEO Jeff Dunn, an operating partner at Butterfly, back to his former job. Dunn was CEO for 6½ years, from 2008 to 2014, becoming president of the Campbell Soup Fresh Division for 2 years, leaving the company in 2016.

April 11
Taylor Farms buys Earthbound Farm from Danone
By Chris Koger

Taylor Farms, Salinas, Calif., has purchased Earthbound Farm from France-based Danone SA.

In announcing the acquisition, effective April 11, Taylor Farms cited “bringing the heritage of another company back to the local community” as a factor in the decision to buy Earthbound Farm.

Earthbound Farm, San Juan Batista, Calif., will join the Taylor Farms Retail Group.

The Earthbound Farm brand will remain, with Taylor Farms’ organic products transitioning to the Earthbound Farm brand “over time,” according to the company.

Jan. 29
Church Brothers buys commodity veg business from Growers Express
By Tom Karst

Salinas, Calif.-based Church Brothers Farms has acquired the commodity vegetable business of Growers Express LLC, also of Salinas. 

In addition, the acquisition includes a licensing agreement to extend the Green Giant Fresh brand to new varieties in partnership with Growers Express, according to a news release. ... The release said the deal is expected to expand Church Brothers Farms’ overall annual production by 15% to 20%.

In the release, Church Brothers Farms said the acquired assets include the growing, harvesting and selling of field-packed vegetable commodities currently branded under Growers Express’ Green Giant Fresh license. 

Growers Express, according to the release, retains the high growth, value-added segment of its business, where innovative products like Cauliflower Crumbles, Vegetable Noodles and Green Giant Fresh Vegetable Bowls were brought to market.