(April 4) A year-old merger of two major European produce companies is reverberating across the Atlantic in the U.S.

On April 1, the Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium-based Univeg Group said it was bringing the 10 Europe-based Bocchi fruit companies it had acquired in May 2006 under the Univeg corporate banner.

No name changes are planned at Univeg-owned companies in the U.S. Univeg owns Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International and Philadelphia-based Fresh Taste USA. Univeg recently announced plans to purchase a stake in Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Produce Inc.

“The merge there is just for managerial structure, to strengthen both of them out there — Univeg being very strong in vegetables and Bocchi being very strong in fruits and some other items,” Tom Leonardi, chief executive officer of Fresh Taste USA, said April 4.

What it does is strengthen U.S. companies’ reach into more imported fruits and vegetables, through Univeg’s network, Leonardi said.

“We’re just going to look at different avenues we’ve increased, so we’ve developed more of the Spanish oranges besides just clementines,” he said. “We have some programs out of Italy, and we’ll develop more programs out of South Africa, especially with some apples and pears. It will be some new growth for us in North America, and we’ll see what works out advantageously for all parties.”

Fresh Taste USA, known as Bocchi Americas Inc. until fall 2004, already handled products including Argentine pears, Spanish and Moroccan clementines, Chilean summer fruits and specialty items from Italy, including chestnuts.

David Mixon, senior vice president of Seald Sweet, said the change also would enhance his company’s ability to source new products.

“It is very much involving us overall in the global representation or disbursement of product we’re involved in,” Mixon said April 4. “It expands what we do considerably. There are many areas that we are vertically integrated from a growing aspect all the way through to packaging and shipping that enables us to be a better fit for our needs and our customers' needs, which obviously makes the value of Seald Sweet far greater than the opportunities we’ve had before.”