Ace Tomato Co. Inc., a leading California packer and shipper of fresh market tomatoes based in Manteca, is being acquired by a Florida company that has made a string of recent acquisitions in the industry.
Terms of the deal between Ace and Immokalee, Fla.-based Lipman Produce, the largest field tomato grower in North America, were not disclosed Tuesday by the two private companies. The transfer of the Ace property, on French Camp Road in Manteca, will occur at the end of the year.
"We will continue to operate the packinghouse throughout the remainder of 2012. After that, we will turn the facilities over to Lipman," says Kathleen Lagorio Janssen, president of Ace Tomato and daughter of the company's founder, George B. Lagorio.
Lagorio Janssen and her family, known for their generous support of local causes, will continue to farm about 10,000 acres of San Joaquin County, producing a diverse selection of crops.
"We love Stockton. We love the area," she says. "We have two sons in the (farm operation) who are eager to continue in the business. We plan to be here for a long time."
The acquisition is Lipman's fourth in eight months and is a key component of the company's nationwide expansion, company officials say.
"Our goal is to distribute produce on a national level and to continue to increase our geographic production diversity," says Kent Shoemaker, Lipman's chief executive, in an email.
"We are expanding the company's farming, packing, shipping and selling operations, particularly in areas where we do not have a significant presence (i.e., the West). We are open to future acquisitions that help to achieve those goals.
"This acquisition increases our distribution capabilities on the West Coast ... and makes it possible for us to provide fresh produce to California, as well as the surrounding states: Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Idaho and Washington," he continues.
With increasing consolidation among retailers, including nationwide supermarket and restaurant chains, that sell the bulk of fresh tomatoes, it makes sense for vegetable distributors to achieve the same scale, says Daniel Sumner, a University of California, Davis, agricultural economist and director of UC's Agricultural Issues Center.
"They want somebody who supplies them with what they need every day of the year and is big enough to deal with them," he says of chains such as McDonald's, Wal-Mart and Costco.
Lipman is able to grow and ship fresh produce year-round from farms in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, California and Mexico - totaling tens of thousands of acres, the company says.