(Dec. 2) VERO BEACH, Fla. — One of Europe’s largest companies involved in supply chain management has acquired majority ownership of Seald Sweet LLC resulting in a major restructuring of the company’s leadership.

Uni-Veg Group, based in Sine-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium, owned a 50% interest in Seald Sweet and increased its share to 80% effective Dec. 1 by buying shares from grower-members and simultaneously announced changes to upper management.

Bruce McEvoy, formerly president of Seald Sweet, has been appointed to director of global affairs for Uni-Veg. David Mixon, formerly vice president of DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, and Mayda Sotomayor, formerly director of import sales at Seald Sweet, have been named senior vice presidents of Seald Sweet.

Former Seald Sweet treasurer Christine Wallace has been named the company’s chief financial officer.

EXPANSION

The moves come as part of a preliminary step by Uni-Veg to expand its operations in the U.S.

Uni-Veg owns produce growing operations throughout Europe, South Africa, South America and the U.S. It also has fresh-cut produce operations, logistics services and several distribution operations throughout Europe.

Uni-Veg is also in the flower and plant business on a global basis and owns WR Vanderschoot of Virginia, a flower bulb grower in Chesapeake — its only other U.S. interest.

“We would like to develop more and more in the United States,” said Hein Deprez, owner of Uni-Veg. “For the U.S. market, we want to be a year-round supplier in commodities like citrus — sourcing from Florida and also South America, Africa and Europe.

Ultimately, Deprez said, Uni-Veg wants to offer U.S. customers additional commodities through its category management program.

McEvoy said the changes will allow Seald Sweet to expand sales of citrus to a year-round basis.

In addition to its domestic citrus operation, Seald Sweet operates Forbel SA, an integrated citrus company in Uruguay, and has a joint venture in South Africa with Mouton Citrus Pty, the largest exporter of South African citrus to the U.S.

“We’ll have to take a good hard look at California and Texas, as well as what we’re doing in South Africa and South America,” McEvoy said. “We’ll also be branching out to start looking at bridging to other commodities but our priority is always going to be citrus.”

Among the new commodities Uni-Veg is considering for U.S. distribution are South African table grapes and stone fruit. The company also ships apples and pears from South Africa.

“We want to use our expertise in offshore areas and bring value to consumers here in the U.S.,” McEvoy said. “We want to identify the gaps and leverage the system. I told our staff they’d better put their seatbelts on because it could be happening fast.”

CHANGES SOON

Sotomayor said changes in the company would come quickly but citrus would remain its primary focus.

“You won’t recognize Seald Sweet in five years. You won’t recognize Seald Sweet three years from now,” she said. “But we’ll always be committed to Florida (citrus) growers and the overall growth of Seald Sweet.”

Deprez said a vertically integrated operation, offering logistics and distribution centers, is necessary in the U.S. to bring value to customers.

“We won’t be just a marketing company, but a company that brings all the resources of global supplies atop comprehensive services,” Deprez said. “There is a great opportunity in North America and we are committed to this business.”

Deprez said Seald Sweet’s operations would be run by Mixon and Sotomayor. Mixon will lead the company’s domestic operation and Sotomayor will build its international program.