Reedley, Calif.-based Bravante Citrus has finalized plans to join the fold of Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc., said Bravante sales representative Mike Keeline.

Bravante Citrus signs on with Sunkist

The arrangement was finalized the week of Sept. 13, and the company will start shipping under the Sunkist label with the start of the 2009-10 navel orange season in mid-October, he said.

Bravante expects to ship 1.5 million cartons of navel and valencia oranges, minneolas and lemons for Sunkist during the upcoming season. The company’s table grape deal will not be affected.

Although Keeline will remain with the company to coordinate the Sunkist program, sales manager Ross Bailey, who was with Bravante since its inception four years ago, said he will begin working with Exeter, Calif.-based Sequoia Orange Co. shortly.

Owner George Bravante, who grows most of the firm’s product, said the company chose to join Sunkist to improve volume and profitability.

“We feel we will have a better opportunity to pick up more quality growers and more fruit by being in the Sunkist system,” he said.

An affiliation with Sunkist, which Keeline termed a “superior marketer of specialty items,” also should help the company expand into specialties like cara cara oranges, blood oranges and easy-peel mandarins.

Bravante had been exploring joining Sunkist since the end of the last navel season.

Keeline said he does not expect major changes to the company’s packing operation since Bravante has a modern facility that already is equipped to put up the packages that Sunkist ships and is certified by Scientific Certification Systems and other third-party certifiers.