One of the world's top banana producers, Chiquita Brands deals in bunches. The company grows, procures, markets, and sells bananas and other fresh fruits and vegetables under the Chiquita name and others. Bananas account for about 65% of Chiquita's sales. Its other offerings include whole citrus fruits, melons, grapes, apples, pineapples, and tomatoes, as well as packaged fresh-cut items, processed fruit ingredients, and juices. Its Fresh Express unit, which generates about a third of sales, is the leading US seller of packaged ready-to-eat salads. Chiquita's products are sold in nearly 70 countries, mainly in North America and Europe. The Middle East, Japan, and South Korea are its smaller markets.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Chiquita inked a deal in 2014 to acquire Irish rival Fyffes in a bid to become the largest banana producer and distributor in the world. The deal involves Chiquita paying $529 million for Fyffes and merging the two companies into what will be known as ChiqutaFyffes, generating more than $4.5 billion a year. Chiquita shareholders will own 50.7% of the new company. The transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the year, paves the way for more opportunities in new geographic markets, strengthens its position in the market for melons and pineapple, and provides some $40 million in cost savings each year by 2016.
The Chiquita business enjoys a global reach. North America accounts for about 60% of Chiquita's business; Europe account for nearly 30%. Guatemala and Costa Rica together account for half of banana sourcing.
Company-owned farms produce one-third of Chiquita's bananas. To satisfy demand, however, the company looks to third-party growers in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Philippines for the balance of its bananas. Chiquita, which relies on third parties worldwide for all of its lettuce and other fresh produce, primarily serves the global retail and foodservice sectors.
Sales and Marketing
Chiquita maintains regional sales groups to sell and market its products to retailers and wholesalers. In North America, the company mostly sells bananas under one-year fixed price contracts to both regional and national grocery stores. Chiquita sells one-year and multi-year contracts in Europe and other international markets, but the contracts are flexible-priced.
The top banana producer's revenue has fallen every year since 2007.
In 2013 revenue was down less than 1% to just less than $3.1 billion. Its salads and healthy snacks segment rose about 1.5% year-over-year on increased volume of its retail value-added salads. The gains, however, were not enough to offset a slight decline (less than 1%) in bananas, primarily because of lower volume in Europe and lower pricing in North America. Chiquita's smallest segment -- other produce -- continued to drop as the company exits various product markets.
Chiquita reported a net loss of about $16 million. This is substantially better than the $405 million loss it posted the prior year, when the company reported a goodwill and trademark impairment charge of more than $180 million related to the Fresh Express salad brand.
The company's salads and healthy snacks business, which accounts for nearly $1 billion in net sales and a third of revenue overall, supports Chiquita's strategy of providing more convenient, healthy-food options to meet the needs of consumers. The company ships Fresh Express ready-made salads that enjoy the #1 position in the US with a 36% retail market share. One-fifth of this segment's sales come from foodservice customers (mostly quick-service restaurants). While Chiquita provides the foodservice industry with lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, and onions, what's purchased most often by customers in this niche is shredded lettuce.
Concerned with consumer safety and to safeguard its bottom line for fear of potentially tainted products, Chiquita by 2011 had fully incorporated Fresh Rinse technology into its salad manufacturing lines. Rather than clean its produce with a traditional chlorine sanitizer, the company has transitioned to the new produce wash, which has been found to be particularly useful in significantly reducing microorganisms on leafy greens. Another motivation for rolling out the new technology is that the produce company plans to license the technology to others as a way to diversify its revenue.
Chiquita is also focused on expanding its product range and brands to new segments, categories, and geographies. To that end, it has introduced Gourmet Café, Chiquita to Go, Just Fruit in a Bottle, and Pineapple Bites to non-grocery venues, including convenience outlets, gas stations, club stores, and coffee shops.
In late 2013 Chiquita began to narrow its strategic focus to concentrate primarily on bananas and salads. To this end, it exited most other fruit businesses, except pineapples, which are sourced from the same regions using the same logistics as bananas.