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Good news for growers says president

US (CA): Agrial purchase last Sonoma apple processor

Manzana Products, the last apple processor in Sonoma County, is being purchased by a large French agricultural cooperative.

It is hoped that the deal will help the 90 year old, Sebastopol company to expand and give a boost to a sector of the local agricultural community that has experienced years of decline.

Manzana President Suzanne Kaido said on Monday, "It's going to be real good for our growers. This company is going to be very interested in more apples."

Manzana will become part of the Eclor beverage decision of Agrial Group SA, which, amongst other activities, processes fruits for juices and had sales worth 2.3 billion Euro in 2010.

The financial details of the acquisition have not been released, but it is known that the family behind the company will not retain any interests once the deal is complete, though this will take a few years.

Farmers seemed positive about the news.

"I think it's a great thing that they found the right buyers that didn't want to shutter the plant," said Steve Dutton, president of Dutton Ranch outside Graton, the county's largest grower of organic apples.

Manzana uses apples for a range of processed goods including apple sauce, juice and cider vinegar. 90% of the goods the company produce are organic and are prepared for private store brands. The company has been owned by the same family since it opened.

The company has had a good record of success, experiencing 12-15% growth per year on average. However, to really meets its expansion potential it needs capital investment, which is where the French group will be able to help develop business.

The company will retain its name, along with its 45 permanent employees. This expands to around 100 personnel during apple harvest.

Kaido will retain her position as president. Her cousin, Dick Norton, will continue as vice president of operations and 36-year apple industry veteran Mark Fitzgerald will remain as general manager.

Source: www.pressdemocrat.com

Publication date: 4/11/2012


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