SPARTA — Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., the largest supplier of Michigan apples, has acquired the sales operation of Sparta-based Jack Brown Produce Inc.
Through the acquisition, Sparta-based Riveridge Produce will represent 50 percent of Michigan’s fresh apple crop, an increase from around 35 percent of the market, President Don Armock told MiBiz. The deal will increase efficiency and enhance profitability for small to mid-sized growers, he added.
“Our focus is on the sales and marketing end,” Armock said. “We do data analysis and use that to communicate to growers where the markets are heading and to retailers what competitors are doing. We have some skill sets that complemented what (Jack Brown Produce) did and they have great growers, great packing facilities and good storage operations. So it was a natural fit.”
Riveridge Produce has a strong presence in the upper Midwest and the southeastern United States, according to Armock. The acquisition of Jack Brown Produce will increase the sale of Michigan apples in the south-central U.S. and give Riveridge Produce more opportunity to do business “on the other side of the Rocky Mountains,” he said.
Apples are the largest and most valuable fruit crop in Michigan. On average, the state’s growers produce 25 million bushels (more than 1 billion pounds) of apples each year, according to the Michigan Apple Committee. About half of the apples grown in Michigan are sold fresh and ready-to-eat. The rest are processed into other products.
Riveridge Produce and Jack Brown Produce are both based in Sparta, a unique growing region in part because of the elevation, proximity to Lake Michigan and ideal soil conditions. About 90 percent of the apples that go to the fresh market are packaged and sold in the area, according to Armock.
In the deal, Riveridge Produce will acquire all Jack Brown Produce brands, packaging materials and assets associated with sales and marketing, according to the company. Grower shareholders will continue to own the Jack Brown Produce storage and packaging facility, which will begin packing under Riveridge brands. The operation at 8035 Fruit Ridge Ave. NW will function similarly to the seven other facilities currently packing for Riveridge Produce, the company said, noting the addition will offer additional pack time during the critical fall time frame.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Along with added volume, the deal will also increase Riveridge Produce’s ability to store and provide fresh Michigan apples year-round. The state of Michigan had more than 200 million pounds of fresh apples in storage on Dec. 1, according to the latest U.S. Apple Association market report.
“We’re competing against entities in the Pacific Northwest that have 15 to 20 million packages of food that they’re selling to the same type customers that we are,” Armock said. “So this gives us a bit more scale and makes us more important as a supplier to larger operations, whether they’re regional or national in scope.”
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