January 1999, Volume 5, Number 1
Big Six Produce Companies
The Big Six US Produce Companies with annual sales of $13 billion include
Dole Food Company, $4.3 billion sales in 1997; Chiquita Brands International,
$2.4 billion; C.H. Robinson Worldwide, $1.8 billion; Fresh Del Monte Produce,
$1.2 billion; Sunkist Growers, $1 billion; Tanimura & Antle, $1 billion;
FreshPoint, $800 million; and Fresh America, $350 million. The growth of giant
produce companies is attributed to consolidation in the grocery industry: the
top 10 US supermarket chains account for about 50 percent of retail food sales,
up sharply from one-third in 1995.
Dole operates as producer, buyer or seller in 90 countries around the
world. Its Dole Japan subsidiary, for example, has shaken up the cooperatives
that market much of the produce grown in Japan by offering to pack produce in
US-style sheds, rather than having farmers pack their own produce. About 40
percent of Japanese farmers are 65 or older.
Chiquita has benefited from rising banana consumption--per capita banana
consumption in the US has doubled since the 1970s. C.H. Robinson is primarily
a transporter of produce, while Fresh Del Monte passed from Mexican to Chilean
ownership in 1997. Sunkist is a citrus cooperative known for navel oranges,
while Tanimura & Antle is a relatively new lettuce-based company, launched
Dole and Chiquita would be the major beneficiaries of a WTO ruling against
the EU, under which the US charged that EU preferences for bananas from former
colonies discriminated against Central and South American bananas that are
mostly grown or marketed by Dole and Chiquita. The US announced that, if the
EU did not dismantle its license system as ordered by the WTO, the US would
impose 100 percent tariffs on selected EU exports to the US.
Cadiz Inc. (formerly Cadiz Land Company) is a Santa Monica-based company
that owns 57,000 acres in the Central Valley and the Mojave Desert, including
19,000 acres of prime agricultural land operated by its Sun World International
Inc. unit. Cadiz's Sun World subsidiary grows, packages and sells 75 varieties
of fresh fruit and vegetables; Cadiz's sales in 1997 were $100 million. Cadiz
contributed $133,000 to Governor Gray Davis in 1997-98.
Consolidation in food retailing continued, with Kroger's announcing plans
to buy Fred Meyer, becoming the leading food retailer with $43 billion in sales
in 1997. Albertson's/American Stores (Lucky, Jewel) would be number two, with
1997 sales of $34 billion; followed by Safeway/Dominick's, $27 billion;
Walmart, $25 billion; Costco and Sam's, $21 billion each; and Ahold/Giant, $19
Second Harvest, the nation's sixth-largest charity and largest network of
food banks serving the needy, received about one billion pounds of donated food
in FY98, but less is coming from food companies, who have grown more efficient
and thus have less food to donate. Second Harvest says that 26 million or 10
percent of Americans received food from one of its 188 programs, and that 20
percent of them are working poor. There are about 400 certified farmers
markets in California, and they have annual sales of about $100 million.
Marc Lifsher, "How Cadiz CEO Became A Key Adviser to Davis," Wall Street
Journal, December 9, 1998.