News Column

Chiquita Exiting Grape Business

Oct. 18, 2012

Ely Portillo, The Charlotte Observer


Charlotte-based Chiquita Brands International says it is pulling out of the grape and some other deciduous fruit businesses, as the company works its way through a major restructuring.

"Chiquita will be exiting the deciduous business effective at the conclusion of the California growing season this fall," said spokeswoman Tiffany Breaux, in a statement.

The "other produce" category of Chiquita's business includes grapes and other deciduous fruits, as well as pineapples (which are an herbaceous perennial). The segment accounted for $48.7 million of the company's revenue last quarter.

That's down from $62.9 million the same quarter a year ago. Overall, "other produce" accounted for just under 6 percent of the company's quarterly revenue.

New CEO Ed Lonergan, a veteran of turnarounds at Procter & Gamble, Gillette and commercial cleaning company Diversey Holdings, was brought in to oversee the restructuring, designed to deliver $60 million in annual savings.

Under former CEO Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita sought to expand its business lines, with forays into branded fruit chips, fruit smoothies in Europe, and other produce besides the main banana business.

But Lonergan has said the company will restore its focus on the company's core business, which is bananas and salads, as Chiquita works to transform itself to a low-cost, high volume, commodity company.

"While the deciduous business has been a part of the company's vision to expand its reach and impact, the transition is necessary to align efforts focusing on the core business," said Breaux.

Source: (c)2012 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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