Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. announced on February 2 it has reached a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Manseu, Quebec-based Atoka Cranberries Inc. from The Bieler Group. Industry insiders said this move might help Ocean Spray gain better access (with much lower tariffs) to the EU market for cranberries, under Canada's CETA trade agreement with the EU signed in September 2017.
Ocean Spray said the acquisition would expand Ocean Spray's manufacturing footprint in Quebec, the second largest and fastest growing cranberry farming region in the world. The transaction is expected to close in the coming weeks.
"This is a strong investment for Ocean Spray and our 700 farmer-owners," said Ocean Spray CEO Randy Papadellis. "Ocean Spray's brand strength and global marketing reach, coupled with Atoka's unique product portfolio and location, will benefit all of our farmers and expand the reach of the overall Quebec cranberry industry."
In addition to acquiring the Atoka brand and processing facility, Ocean Spray intends to purchase The Bieler Group's freezer and receiving facilities in the coming year. Ocean Spray, a farmer-owned cooperative, also wants to make additional capital investments in these facilities to further increase efficiency and improve yield. The Bieler Group will retain its world-class cranberry growing operations and become a farmer-owner of the Ocean Spray Cooperative.
Atoka's approximately 130 employees will become part of the Ocean Spray manufacturing network, which includes five food plants located in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington, and Lanco, Chile as well as four beverage facilities in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Nevada.
Atoka grows and supplies fresh, dried and chocolate coated cranberries, including certified organic lines from its Quebec operations. Atoka was founded in 1984 as a cranberry farming operation, and in 1988, Atoka began the first phase of its plant construction process.
"The employees of Atoka and Ocean Spray share a similar culture of quality and customer focus, as well as a unique dedication to increasing demand for cranberries," said Marc Bieler, chairman, and CEO of The Bieler Group. "Bringing together these two businesses is exciting, and we look forward to joining Ocean Spray as a farmer-owner."
"This acquisition comes exactly 60 years after Quebec growers first joined the Ocean Spray Cooperative in 1958," added Papadellis. "Our farmer-owners have a long and proud history in Eastern Canada, and partnering with Bieler Cranberries, true pioneers of the Quebec cranberry industry, is a very exciting way to begin the next 60 years."
"Ocean Spray is a vibrant agricultural cooperative owned by more than 700 cranberry growers in the United States, Canada, and Chile who have helped preserve the family farming way of life for generations," the company said.
Formed in 1930, Ocean Spray is now the world's leading producer of cranberry juices, juice drinks, and dried cranberries and is the best-selling brand in the North American bottled juice category. The cooperative's cranberries are currently featured in more than a thousand products in over 100 countries worldwide.
"With more than 2,000 employees and nearly 20 cranberry receiving and processing facilities, Ocean Spray is committed to managing our business in a way that respects our communities, employees and the environment," Ocean Spray said.