Business Monday

In fruit market, Fresh Del Monte is a big banana

FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

If you’ve bought some bananas or pineapples lately in South Florida, there’s a good chance they were supplied by Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., which has its U.S. executive offices in Coral Gables.

Fresh Del Monte Produce does business as Del Monte Fresh Produce. It is one of the world’s largest producers, distributors and marketers of fresh and fresh-cut produce, and an important supplier of prepared (processed) foods.

The public company sells its products in more than 100 countries and says it is the world’s largest marketer of fresh pineapples and the third largest supplier of bananas. About 54 percent of its multibillion dollar sales comes from North America.

Fresh Del Monte grows and sources a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in Latin America, Africa, the Philippines, North America (including Florida) and Europe, and distributes them internationally. It also makes processed foods (including fruits, vegetables, juices and snacks) and sells them in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Del Monte Fresh declined a request from the Miami Herald to interview its chairman and CEO, Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, or other executives. Information for this article came from news releases, filings with the SEC required for companies whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange and other public exchanges, the company’s website, news reports and some information supplied by the company by email.

Last year, 46 percent of the fresh produce it sold was grown on company-controlled farms, and the remainder was obtained mainly through supply contracts with independent growers.

Costa Rica is a key center for Fresh Del Monte: In 2014, about 34 percent of its total fresh produce sales came from that Central American nation, and about 40 percent of its worldwide plant, property and equipment is located there.

Don’t confuse the pineapple grower with canned green beans. Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., which has its main executive office in the Cayman Islands and its U.S. executive offices in Coral Gables, is a separate company from San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods Inc., a producer of canned fruits, vegetables and other processed foods.

The consumer products division of what was previously called Del Monte Foods was sold to Asian-based Del Monte Pacific Ltd. in 2014 and is now called Del Monte Foods Inc. The rest of the original company went on to make pet foods under the name Big Heart Pet Brands. In March of this year, the J.M. Smucker Co. completed its acquisition of Big Heart.

Launched in California in the late 1880s as a private label coffee for a Monterey hotel, the Del Monte brand today is shared by a variety of companies that have evolved over the years and now offer fresh or processed products in a range of global markets. Aside from Fresh Del Monte, companies include Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (based in Singapore and the Philippines), Del Monte Canada and Del Monte Asia Pte Ltd. After buying the Del Monte Foods consumer line, Del Monte Pacific took over its Del Monte canned foods line, including Contadina, College Inn and S&W, and changed the U.S. company’s name to Del Monte Foods Inc.

In Coral Gables, the Del Monte brand lives on. Fresh Del Monte came into being after Del Monte Corp. divided into Del Monte Tropical Fruit and Del Monte Foods. The tropical fruit business, under different ownership, had been based in Coral Gables since 1968. After a series of mergers and sales, Fresh Del Monte emerged and went public in 1997. Its U.S. executive offices remained here.

Its Florida presence remains strong. The Coral Gables office has 278 employees, including company executives, out of about 681 in Florida, 1,304 in North America and 45,000 worldwide.

It has distribution centers in Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, as well as a distribution and fresh-cut facility in Plant City. These modern sites, part of a network of 23 in North America, have ripening capabilities and other value-added services for products.

Fresh Del Monte has four seaport facilities in North America with cold-storage capacity. The company owns 15 refrigerated vessels and leases another six for moving its products around the world. Its vessels make weekly deliveries to Port Manatee, and products are moved from there to distribution centers.

In 2014, Fresh Del Monte bought 2,600 acres of farmland in Florida for $16 million to expand its tomato-growing operations. The year before, it acquired land in Florida and Virginia. These purchases, the company said, mean that it now has year-round capacity to produce high-quality tomatoes for customers in North America.

Fresh Del Monte’s net sales globally were nearly $3.93 billion in fiscal 2014 (which ended Dec. 26, 2014), up from $3.7 billion the previous year. The biggest sellers were bananas ($1.8 billion), gold pineapples ($577 million), fresh-cut produce ($381million), non-tropical fruit ($413.9 million), melons ($126.8 million) and tomatoes ($109.9 million).

The firm competes with other international giants such as Dole and Chiquita, and Fresh Del Monte says that it plans to make new investments in agricultural and distribution operations to increase its market share.

FRESH DEL MONTE PRODUCE INC.

Business: Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., which does business as Del Monte Fresh Produce, is one of the world’s largest, vertically integrated producers, marketers and distributors of fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, as well as a major producer and distributor of prepared fruit, vegetables, juices, beverages and snacks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The company, which markets its products worldwide under the Del Monte brand, says it is the largest marketer of fresh pineapples worldwide and the third largest banana vendor. Fresh Del Monte Produce and Del Monte Foods Inc., which makes canned fruits, vegetables and other processed foods, are separate companies.

Founded: The Del Monte name first appeared in 1886 on packaged coffee in California. Fresh Del Monte came into being after the Del Monte Corp. divided into Del Monte Tropical Fruit and Del Monte Foods.

Principal executive offices: Cayman Islands

U.S. executive offices: 241 Sevilla Ave., Coral Gables

Chairman and CEO: Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh

Employees: About 45,000 worldwide, 681 in Florida and 278 in Coral Gables.

Financial results: Net sales for 2014 (year ended 12/26/2014) were nearly $3.93 billion.

Ownership: Publicly traded on the NYSE (Symbol: FDP)

Websites: www.freshdelmonte.com

Sources: Fresh Del Monte Produce and its 2014 annual report (10-K) filed with the SEC.

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