Feb 062013

By Nick Worth
NatureSweet Ltd. announced Jan. 28 that the company intends to purchase “substantially all of the assets” of EuroFresh Farms, based in Willcox and Snowflake. The two companies are among the leading producers of fresh tomatoes in North America, and EuroFresh Farms is also a leading U.S. grower of greenhouse cu-cumbers.
The move comes after EuroFresh filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Tucson on Jan. 27. According to a press release, the acquisition of EuroFresh Farms’ assets by the San Antonio-based NatureSweet will take place through a “363 sale,” which allows a company filing for bankruptcy to immediately market its assets to bidders, with the approval of the United States Bankruptcy Court.
“Bringing EuroFresh products into the NatureSweet family provides us with new product offerings and U.S. growing facilities that we are confident will provide significant value to our customers,” said Bryant Ambelang, chief executive officer and president of NatureSweet. “This acquisition is a great opportunity to continue our growth while providing customers with the premium branded tomatoes they have come to expect from NatureSweet. For the company, our customers and our associates, this is the right thing to do at the right time.”
Johan van den Berg, chief executive officer of EuroFresh Farms, added, “We are pleased to have received this offer from a financially strong organization that will continue to invest in the business of growing and selling greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers.”
According to Elizabeth Baker, public relations account manager, the Snowflake and Willcox EuroFresh farms facilities together employ 1,100 workers, with 101 of that number working at the Snowflake farm. There are also 100 inmates working at the Snowflake facility.
NatureSweet’s growing operations employ more than 5,000 associates year-round.
“There are no plans to lay off any EuroFresh Farms employees at this time,” said Frank van Staalen, chief financial officer for EuroFresh. “EuroFresh Farms employees are very important to the future of this operation.”
Van Staalen noted that there are no plans to make any changes in the operations of Snowflake EuroFresh Farms facility at this time.
He also declined to disclose the sale price, saying it is confidential information.
According to the press release, the court filings are not expected to affect EuroFresh Farms’ ability to operate its business and deliver on current or future customer orders.