A top banana among 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 pineapples, packaged ready-to-eat salads, fresh fruit and vegetable ingredients for the foodservice industry, and processed fruit ingredients. Its Fresh Express brand, which generates nearly 30% of revenue, 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. Brazilian agribusiness Grupo Cutrale and investment firm Safra together own Chiquita.
Change in Company Type
In early 2015, Brazilian juice maker Grupo Cutrale and investment firm Safra Group paid $682 million to take Chiquita private. Under the terms of the deal, North Carolina-based Chiquita became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cutrale-Safra but remained incorporated in New Jersey. Chiquita is no longer publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The company operates three main business segments Bananas, Salads and Healthy Snacks, and Other Produce. Its Bananas segment makes up roughly 65% of sales, and gets most of its business from North American, followed by European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern Markets.
Its Salads and Healthy Snacks division makes up more than 30% of revenue, and includes packaged, ready-to-eat salads sold under the Fresh Express brand (and other private labels) in the retail market; fresh vegetable and fruit ingredients used in foodservice; healthy snacks; and processed fruit ingredient products. Nationwide, the segment distributes roughly 250 types of retail value-added salad products and 30 value-added healthy snacking products.
The Chiquita sells its brands in nearly 70 countries worldwide. The US accounts for about 60% of Chiquita's business, while Italy and Germany each generate more than 5%. Other core European markets (consisting of 28 countries of the EU) generate another roughly 15% of revenue. Half of the company's banana sourcing comes from the countries of Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Sales and Marketing
In total, the company spent $28 million on advertising in 2014, the same as in 2013, but more than the $27 million it spent in 2012.
Chiquita maintains regional sales groups to sell and market its products to retailers and wholesalers. In North America, 90% of the company's volume is sold under one-year or multi-year fixed price contracts to both regional and national grocery stores, while the rest is sold on the spot market. Chiquita sells one-year and multi-year contracts in Europe and other international markets, but the contracts are flexibly-priced.
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.
Chiquita's mid-Atlantic distribution hub is the Port of Wilmington. In July 2014, the company signed an agreement with Diamond State Port Corporation to continue the use of this hub until July 2019, with two 5-year lease renewal options to potentially expand the contract until 2029.
Following years of sales declines, revenue in 2014 rebounded by 1% to $3.09 billion, thanks to a 3% uptick in total banana sales as the company enjoyed higher pricing and sales volume in the North American market, as well as higher pricing in the Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern markets. The Other Produce division's sales also grew, thanks mostly to higher pineapple volume in North America. Salads and Healthy Snacks segment sales dipped by 2.5%, mostly because of lower processed fruit ingredient sales.
Despite higher revenue, the company suffered another year of losses, with a net loss of $62.54 million in 2014. The loss was mostly because of a $51 million transaction cost resulting from the termination of the Fyffes acquisition, along with the subsequent acquisition by the Cutrale and Safra Groups. Still, 2014's results were substantially better than in 2012, when the company suffered a $405 million loss related to a goodwill and trademark impairment charge of more than $180 million from the Fresh Express salad brand.
Cash from operations declined by 41% to $53.8 million in 2014, mostly because of lower cash earnings.
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, controlling roughly one-third of its 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.
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.
Chiquita has narrowed its strategic focus to concentrate primarily on bananas and salads. To this end, in late 2013, it exited most other fruit businesses, except pineapples, which are sourced from the same regions using the same logistics as bananas.
Chiquita had inked a deal in 2014 to acquire Irish rival Fyffes in a bid to become the largest banana producer and distributor in the world, but the agreement was ultimately terminated as shareholders did not approve. The deal would have involved Chiquita paying $529 million for Fyffes and merging the two companies into what would be known as ChiqutaFyffes, generating more than $4.5 billion a year.