FRENCH GROUP BUYS KRAFT CHEESE DIVISION, INCLUDING TULARE PLANT

French dairy company Lactalis Group has entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition by its U.S. affiliate of Kraft Heinz’s Natural, Grated, Cultured and Specialty cheese businesses in the U.S. With this acquisition, Lactalis will acquire a portfolio of iconic, strongly-positioned brands that include Cracker Barrel, Breakstone’s, Knudsen, Polly-O, Athenos, Hoffman’s and — outside the U.S. and Canada only — Cheez Whiz.

In addition, Kraft Heinz will partner with Lactalis on a perpetual license for Kraft in Natural, Grated and International cheeses and Velveeta in Natural and International cheeses. Under the terms of the transaction, Lactalis will acquire three  Kraft Heinz production facilities located in Tulare; Walton, New York and Wausau, Wisconsin, and a distribution center in Weyauwega, Wisconsin.

Approximately 750 Kraft Heinz employees will be joining Lactalis. The company expects to add additional American jobs to support this business following the closing of the transaction, which is expected in the first half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals. Kraft Tulare’s plant was originally a Louis Rich turkey plant in the 1990s but closed and later was converted by the parent company to make cheese — mostly mozzarella and Parmesan.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/french-group-buys-kraft-cheese-division-including-tulare-plant-%E2%80%A8/

Fresno agriculture company completes major expansion during pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Despite a drop in demand in some markets due to the pandemic, a Fresno ag company has just completed a major expansion. Expansion at Baloian Farms in Fresno came at a good time with so many vegetables now in season – like mini bell peppers. They were picked, packed and then shipped out to stores across the US and Canada.

Company CEO Tim Baloian said, “There’s three major retailers that we’re working with right now on consolidation, and then we work with wholesalers and there’s been increased demand.” The cold storage space has been expanded and the loading area has doubled in size from eight to 16 docks. That keeps the product moving in and out of the facility. Additional big rig parking has also been added.

Baloian said, “We can back a lot more trucks in and get these orders out much quicker than without these facilities.” In addition to bell peppers, Baloian also grows lettuce, squash and egg plant in the Fresno area, all the way to the central coast to keep up with demand. Baloian explained, “We do a lot of these commodities on a year-round basis, loading them either in Fresno or in Nogales, Arizona so we try to build our business as a year-round supplier of certain commodities.”

The retail market remained strong but the struggles continued for ag producers which supply restaurants and school cafeterias during this pandemic. Baloian said, “The food service sector of our business, which is a big part of what we do, is still suffering and is still down.” Baloian Farms survived its trial by fire. In October of 1993, Action News was there as fire destroyed its warehouse. The company was able to not only rebuild but gradually expand over the next few decades. Baloian said, “It’s by the grace of God we’re still in business.”

https://abc30.com/agriculture-fresno-ag-central-valley/6397620/

Madera Wine Trail has fresh stories to celebrate Wine Month

Central California’s Madera County is the largest rural county in the state and home to the Madera Wine Trail. The landscape stretches from productive farmlands to rolling foothills and upward into the High Sierra. It’s no mystery why this countryside has been winemaking since the 1800s, the weather is warm, the skies are clear and the snowcapped mountain tops nourish the foothills and central valley.

“Visitors from across the state are taking notice of the amazing adventures they can find in the heart of California. People don’t have far to travel to find outdoor options that give plenty of space for social distancing. Plus, we have sunshine more than 300 days of the year,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO, Visit Yosemite | Madera County. “Not only can people play here year-round, but excellent wine grapes grow here, too. Maximizing a trip to Bass Lake, Yosemite or the Sierra National Forest means tasting award-winning wines along the Madera Wine Trail. It adds something special to a getaway.”

“We are proud to continually share the Yosemite regions ‘best-kept-secret’ of the Madera Wine Trail with the world. We celebrate California Wine Month with a short film by an acclaimed videographer all about what makes this historic American Viticulture Area so unique,” said Wendy Eachus, Madera Vintners Association. “Five of the nine wineries along the Madera wine trail have moved tastings exclusively outdoors. All of the wineries are open for curbside pick-ups and private appointments. It’s true, this year, current events are complicated. However, everyone can absolutely enjoy handcrafted wines from Madera’s vintners and dream about their next visit.”

“The major differences between a connoisseur and the common consumer are adjectives. Everybody is an expert at what they like,” said Owner and Winemaker Ray Krause, Westbrook Wine Farm. “I have people that come in and say, ‘I don’t know much about wine’ to which I respond, I bet you know a whole lot about what you like.”

Californians know what they like; beautiful scenic views, relaxing outdoor patios, and engaging conversation over award-winning wines. There is still plenty to celebrate this September. Find it at the doorstep of Yosemite National Park along the Madera Wine Trail.

http://www.maderatribune.com/single-post/2020/09/02/Madera-Wine-Trail-has-fresh-stories-to-celebrate-Wine-Month#:~:text=September%20is%20National%20Wine%20Month,to%20the%20Madera%20Wine%20Trail.

Despite economic hardships, almond industry continues to thrive

A recent report published by the Almond Board of California shows that despite a currently challenging trade environment, global shipments of almonds continue to increase as the industry navigates through tough times.

California almond growers are consistently producing crops at record or near-record levels year after year, meaning the industry must constantly work to expand existing export markets and continue to grow demand in those regions — while also keeping an eye on new opportunities at the global level. In the past year, the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with China’s continued tariffs, have continued to pose a problem for growers looking to move their nuts from California ports to export markets.

During the 2019-2020 crop year, California produced 2.55 billion pounds of almonds. Nearly 1.6 billion pounds were exported, while domestic shipments accounted for 774 million pounds. This represents nearly parallel growth between the two compared to 2018-2019, when domestic shipments grew 4.5 percent and exports grew five percent. The ABC credits this continued growth to the industry’s investment in nutrition research, as well as development of the global market.

The ABC expanded its nutrition research into the area of beauty in the past year, and is also building demand through consumer marketing programs in 11 countries, from India and Japan to the U.S. and Mexico.

“One of the things that I first noticed when I joined the Almond Board four years ago was the passion and pride staff have in helping grow this industry,” Vice President of Global Market Development Emily Fleischmann states in the report, “and that fire continues. It’s what has helped our teams launch innovative new campaigns like ‘Do You Almond’ in the UK this past year and what helps almonds remain the number one nut in new product introductions for 10 years running.”

Forthcoming partnerships include a campaign with Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings, a brand-new campaign in France and the ABC’s first digital program in India.

India received 256 million pounds of almonds from the U.S. in 2019-2020, followed by Spain (193 million), Germany (134 million) and China (99 million). Global trade tensions with China have changed the landscape of priority markets, according to the report.

“Five years ago, China was our second-largest export destination. It stayed as the third-largest market for several years, surpassed only by the strong growth of the Indian market,” said Julie Adams, vice president of Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the ABC.

Adams went on to explain that retaliatory tariffs implemented by China two years ago derailed progress that had been made, with the country previously poised to expand amid an increasing middle class and economic growth.

“Starting in April 2018, we saw the impact of the trade war, which took almonds from a 10 percent tariff to the current 55 percent tariff,” Adams said. “Over the last two years, shipments to China/Hong Kong dropped 25percent in crop year 2018-19 and another 23 percent in crop year 2019-20, with Australia benefiting.”

Although China has dropped to fourth in the line of top U.S. export destinations, the country is still key to building demand for expanded crop production. Many trade issues take a long time to resolve, Adams stated, but it is still essential to engage in positive interactions with difficult markets so that a solution can be found quickly

The report states that global appeal among customers and consumers worldwide is clearly reflected in the almond industry’s regional shipments, and that being well diversified helps counteract trade disruptions that can unexpectedly come up in one market or another. For example, India and China have historically been the primary destination for in-shell markets, but now India has absorbed much of those shipments.

In India, almonds are the number one ag import at $732 million, accounting for 40 percent of all U.S. ag exports to India. In the United Arab Emirates, almonds are the number one ag import and account for around 23 percent of total U.S. ag exports. “There are so many growth opportunities around the globe,” Adams said. “For years, the Middle East and Africa were a small share of exports, but now they represent almost 20 percent.” While acknowledging the many challenges facing California almonds, Adams also believes “the opportunities are limitless.”

https://www.turlockjournal.com/news/local/despite-economic-hardships-almond-industry-continues-thrive/#:~:text=A%20recent%20report%20published%20by,industry%20navigates%20through%20tough%20times.&text=During%20the%202019%2D2020%20crop,2.55%20billion%20pounds%20of%20almonds.

USDA to Host CFAP Producer Webinar to Discuss Newly Eligible Specialty Crops, Nursery Crops, Cut Flowers and more

Join the USDA Farm Service Agency as we discuss another round of additional commodities that are now eligible for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).  Hear program specialists provide scenario examples for nursery crops, specialty crops and aquaculture.  We will also cover adjustments made to the program and recap program basics.  USDA’s Farm Service Agency is now accepting applications for CFAP through September 11, 2020.  The CFAP program helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/outreach-and-education/webinars/

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Are you a farmer or rancher whose operation has been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic? The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on August 11 that the deadline to apply for CFAP has been extended to September 11. The original application deadline was August 28, 2020. USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers multiple ways for you to apply for CFAP to meet your business needs.

Producers self-certify when applying for CFAP, and documentation is not submitted with the application. You may be asked for additional documentation to support your certification of eligible commodities, so you should retain the documentation used to complete your application.

https://www.farmers.gov/cfap

Destination California: Madera Wine Trail is a hidden gem in the Valley

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Some call it the wine industry’s best kept secret. The Madera Wine Trail in the Central Valley is a unique boutique experience, offering award-winning wines. “The Madera Wine Trail is so important to this community,” said Erica Magarian, the Estate manager at Fäsi Estate Winery. Considered the agricultural center of the United States, the Central Valley has reason to show off its wine growing region in Madera. “We can create wines that are unique — vintage to vintage.  And not only that, we can play around with different varieties that are not as common,” said Shayne Vetter, who’s a winemaker for Toca Madera Winery.

The wineries are on a smaller scale in Madera, giving an intimate feel that wine lovers can take advantage of. “We’re able to be very hands on from start to finish.  Whether that be, as you can see behind me, our vineyard, being very hands on with harvesting all the way through to maybe hand bottling,” said Magarian. “And not only that, you’re going to taste some wines that are a little different in style because we have the ability to be different and not have to follow kind of the status quo,” added Vetter.

Winery staff are rich in knowledge and the area is one of the oldest grape growing regions in America.  The wineries on the wine trail are part of the AVA. “A lot of people don’t realize that Madera is a American Viticultural Area meaning it has some distinction apart from the surrounding areas.” Renowned neighbors, Napa and Paso Robles might be touting best in show, but Madera wines are up and coming–already winning several awards and the county has long been known for its dessert wines and ports. “A lot of wine grape growing regions are known for maybe one or two particular varietals, but here in Madera, it’s very interesting and exciting that we all kind of have our own little niche.  So, that’s very cool.” The Madera Wine Trail is just minutes North of Fresno.

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/destination-california/madera-wine-trail-is-a-hidden-gem-in-the-valley/

FRESNO COMPANY ACQUIRES PRODUCT LINE FROM GLOBAL BEHEMOTH

Published On July 1, 2020 – 3:05 PM
Written By The Business Journal Staff

Vie-Del Co., one of the largest and the oldest grape processors in the U.S., has announced it intends to acquire Constellation Brands U.S. Operations, Inc. (CBUSO) grape concentrate and high-color concentrate business. Under the agreement, the terms of which were undisclosed, Vie-Del, which is headquartered in Fresno, will be acquiring CBUSO’s Mega Purple, Mega Red, MegaNatural, and Canandaigua Concentrates brands used in the high color concentrate business. The agreement also includes CBUSO’s certain intellectual property, inventory, goodwill, interests in certain contracts, assets and liabilities.

Vie-Del plans to incorporate the MegaNatural High Color concentrate produced under the corporate Vie-Del Co. brand and legacy product lines. “This acquisition provides a seamless complement to our existing lines of grape juice concentrates, allowing our operation to further build upon the success we’ve created for more than 70 years,” said Dianne Nury, president of Vie-Del Company. “We look forward to continuing to serve the needs and help fuel growth for our industry partners with the same personalized business approach our family-owned company has become known for.” Constellation Brands is one of the largest distributors of beer, wine and spirits in the world.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/fresno-company-acquires-product-line-from-global-behemoth/?utm_source=Daily+Update&utm_campaign=ee924e4a35-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_07_01_09_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fb834d017b-ee924e4a35-78934409&mc_cid=ee924e4a35&mc_eid=a126ded657

RazzleDazzle Grapes will be Transitioned to Central California by mid-July

This year’s Mexican grape season was slightly different from past seasons, according to Mike Asdoorian of DLJ Produce. “A lot of growers have pulled out their early season varieties and planted later season premium varieties, which has changed up the structure of the season,” he says. For the RazzleDazzle grapes, there are about 2-3 weeks left in the Mexican season, and after this they will switch over to their Central California production.

The RazzleDazzle crop started out of Mexico in the beginning of June and will likely stretch to the beginning of July. Asdoorian shares: “The main focus is the quality of the grapes. We waited with packing the product at the start of the Mexican season so assure the highest quality. We also don’t want to overextend the season too much because we don’t want to affect the quality.”

Mexico has seen some high temperatures lately which has worried growers in the area. “There have been some heat related issues in Mexico that we want to keep our eyes on. The fruit’s quality is still good, the heat is just slowing everything down a bit. The transition to California is coming up, though, so that should alleviate the worries about the temperatures in Mexico. We’re expecting to have good volumes out of California by the second week of July,” Asdoorian shares. Some logistical challenges, but good demand despite pandemic
The spike in COVID-19 cases in Arizona has caused some additional challenges for companies in the area. Asdoorian explains: “There are some really strict regulations, such as not letting truck drivers into facilities to reduce possible exposure. It’s been difficult getting the product across the border because of the strains on the infrastructure. Trucks rates are slightly elevated, and there are limited numbers of USDA inspectors available. Those who are available are also subject to the extra precautions and restrictions. So, getting product into the US has been a challenge, but I’d say we’ve adjusted well to it.”

The majority of the product goes directly into retail, and the demand for the RazzleDazzle grapes has been good, Asdoorian says. “The combination of the exclusivity of the program with the benefit of the fact that people aren’t eating out as much has driven demand. The grape category as a whole might not be up by any significant amount, but in general people are buying more produce. We, specifically, are seeing a double-digit growth for our grapes, so we’re looking forward to moving along the season, have a good transition and do the best we can,” he concludes.

https://www.freshplaza.com/article/9229996/we-ll-be-transitioned-to-central-california-by-mid-july/

Blue Diamond Completes Turlock Expansion

Less than 15 months after breaking ground on the project, Blue Diamond Growers recently announced the expansion of its Turlock manufacturing plant is complete. The 52,000 square foot addition to the existing 200,000 square foot facility in town is one of two major expansions for Blue Diamond, a nonprofit grower-owned cooperative and the world’s leading processor and marketer of almonds. The other, in Salida, will be completed in May. The new Turlock expansion increases Blue Diamond’s value-added almond processing capabilities with an automated factory that features state-of-the-art handling, processing and packaging equipment and also provides space for a future manufacturing line to support both current business or new innovations.

The completion of the expansion comes as Blue Diamond celebrates its 110th anniversary and just seven years after its Turlock facility opened. Since 2013, Turlock’s Blue Diamond facility has received a number of accolades, including Food Engineering Magazine’s title of the 2014 Plant of the Year, as well as being named to Boston Consulting Group’s list of the fastest-growing midsize companies in the nation. The company is no stranger to building facilities quickly — Blue Diamond was able to move from groundbreaking to startup for the original plant in just 13 months. At the expansion’s groundbreaking ceremony in January 2019, Blue Diamond President and CEO Mark Jansen said they hoped to get the additional space built quickly due to the company’s rapid growth. Just over a year later, that goal was accomplished.

The new facility will be used specifically to create an integrated almond beverage base line, where, for the first time, everything needed for the product will be manufactured in the same facility. The base for Blue Diamond’s beverage line, Almond Breeze, will be created at the Turlock expansion through a process of blanching, splitting, roasting and grinding the almonds into a buttery paste, which will then be shipped all over the world to be mixed with water and sold as almond milk. Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze production has experienced double digit growth over the last 20 years. In 2018, the brand grew by 14 percent. The original Turlock Blue Diamond facility is already processing about 25 percent more almonds than the company originally thought possible for the plant’s capacity after the company recently added an almond flour line to the mix.

The expansion comes as phase two in a three-phase, 15-year project that began when Blue Diamond purchased 88 acres at the intersection of North Washington and Fulkerth Road in late 2011. Since then, companies like Hilmar Cheese and Valley Milk have made their way into the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, while already-established facilities like United States Cold Storage and Sunnyside Farms are also currently in expansion mode. The second expansion in Salida is the new Bulk 8 Warehouse at the Salida facility that originally opened as an almond receiving station in 1969. Today the 675,000 square foot facility sits on 44 acres and includes a retail nut and gift shop. The new 58,000 square foot bulk storage facility is on schedule to be completed by the end of May, providing an additional 50 million pounds of in-house bulk almond storage capacity in time to receive the 2020 almond harvest. The 65-foot-tall building includes advanced design with an automated gravity fed spiral conveyance system that improves grower delivery efficiency and reduces damage to the almonds. “It is particularly meaningful for Blue Diamond to be able to commemorate our Founders Day today by not only recognizing our humble beginnings 110 years ago, but also celebrating two key growth milestones that help secure our future,” Jansen said. “I couldn’t be more proud that, despite the unprecedented challenges businesses around the world have faced over the past two months, our incredible team has been able to sustain operations as an essential food supplier, while completing these critical expansion projects ahead of schedule to meet customer needs.”

To celebrate the expansions and give back during the coronavirus pandemic, Blue Diamond, along with partners Union Pacific and Sun-Maid Growers of California, committed to a donation match of $50,000 to help support three food banks in northern and central California that are struggling to meet significant demand from local families in need.

https://www.turlockjournal.com/news/local/blue-diamond-completes-turlock-expansion/