(Jan. 24) HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Grower, shipper and repacker DiMare Homestead Inc., acquired five repacking facilities and two sales offices of Fresh America Corp., boosting its national distribution network.

In the wake of the acquisitions, Dimare Homestead formed a new subsidiary, DiMare Fresh Inc. The company, formed Jan. 22, provides its customers with a vertically integrated tomato company with national distribution. Other products currently handled by the former Fresh America location, which include a full line of fruits and vegetables at some locations, will still be available through DiMare Fresh.

“I think it fits in perfect with the DiMare Cos.,” said Paul DiMare, president of DiMare Fresh. “We are now pretty well spread across the country in strategic locations.”

Although the company has had a presence on both coasts, with locations in Florida and California, DiMare said the Fresh America purchase allows the company to offer a wider distribution, with more products. That includes the Green Giant Fresh brand for tomatoes and bell peppers, of which Fresh America was the sole licensee.

DiMare said The Sholl Group II, Minneapolis, which owns licensing rights for the Green Giant fresh brand for all fresh produce besides onions and potatoes, approved DiMare as a licensee. All of the current Green Giant Fresh tomato and pepper packs, including a popular three-pepper “stoplight” bag, will be handled by the new company. Fresh America gained approval to pack Green Giant products in the fall of 2001.

“We’re on the move with Green Giant,” DiMare said. “It’s been growing, from what they tell me, every month. I talked with the people from Green Giant (Jan. 23), and they’re excited.”

The former Fresh America locations — most of them leased properties — are in Houston; Chicago; Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.; Atlanta; Visalia, Calif.; Walnut Creek, Calif.; and its headquarters in Arlington, Texas. The Visalia and Walnut Creek locations are sales offices.

DiMare declined to discuss specifics of the purchase, but said his company didn’t assume any responsibilities for Fresh America’s debt. The purchase only involved equipment, certain supplies and locations.

“We didn’t buy the corporation, we bought the assets,” he said. “The corporate offices are still there. (We purchased) limited assets, no cash or receivables.”

With Fresh America no longer repacking or selling produce, creditors quickly mobilized to ensure payment under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. Although no bankruptcy actions have been filed, attorneys involved with Fresh America creditors said the company will no longer be in business following the distribution of assets to creditors.

Fresh America officials were not available for comment, but DiMare said the Texas-based company approached his company about the buyout.

DiMare said no immediate changes are planned and each Fresh America location will continue in operation as a DiMare Fresh facility.

“Every operation will remain the same at this moment,” he said. “We will weigh which ones we’ll continue to go on with if they’re profitable, and which ones we’ll eliminate. But now they’ll remain open.”

Less than two weeks before the announcement, a group of tomato repackers with 12 locations throughout the country, including facilities in Florida, Texas and California, formed NationFresh, a repacking network.

Members of that network cited retailer consolidation as a factor; DiMare also said a national network helps serve retail accounts.

“With consolidation going on, there’s going to be consolidation in our industry,” he said. “(Fresh America) came to us, and we saw an opportunity.”

DiMare Fresh serves retail, foodservice, quick service restaurants and repackers. The DiMare Cos. is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.


FRESH AMERICA FORMER LOCATIONS

Sales offices

  • Visalia, Calif.

  • Walnut Creek, Calif.


  • Repack facilities

    • Atlanta

    • Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.

    • Chicago

    • Arlington, Texas

    • Houston


    • DiMare facilities

    • Newman, Calif.

    • Indio, Calif.

    • Fullerton, Calif.

    • Sacramento, Calif.

    • Homestead, Fla.

    • Ruskin, Fla.

    • Tampa, Fla.

    • John’s Island, S.C.