(UPDATED COVERAGE 2 p.m. June 9) FRESNO, Calif. â Citing on-going financing, pricing and structural issues, Z&S Fresh Inc. abruptly closed its doors June 8.
âZ&S is seeking to protect the interests of its growers and creditors through an orderly cessation of business activities,â the company said in a prepared statement.
Marty Zaninovich, a partner in Z&S Fresh, has declined to comment to The Packer.
Z&S Fresh, a produce sales and marketing company, becomes the latest casualty in the California stone fruit industry. Four other longtime central California grower-shippers, Ballantine Produce Co Inc., Sanger; George Bros. Inc., Sultana; Ito Packing Co. Inc., Reedley; and Sunny-Cal Fruit Sales Inc., Reedley, have shut down in the past six months.
The first indication there may have been problems came when packing operations at a related company, the ZM Fresh packinghouse in Reedley, were halted June 3, said a former Z&S Fresh employee who spoke on condition of anonymity. Growers represented by the company have apparently found other outlets for their fruit.
âTo my knowledge, not one grower is without a home,â he said.
At least three other packing and/or marketing firms have agreed to take the fruit, the employee said.
It was just a year ago that ZM Fresh Inc., a partnership between Zaninovich and Visalia grower Aron Margosian, opened the new packinghouse near Reedley. The partners acquired an old packing shed and expanded the building to 170,000 square feet and installed a cold storage area.
Margosian did not return telephone calls.
Z&S Fresh had, in addition to Zaninovich, three salesmen at the Fresno office and another salesman based in Nogales. The former employee said Zaninovich was upset about the timing of the shut down.
âMarty realizes heâs dealt us an unfair hand with not many tree fruit companies looking to hire in the middle of the season,â he said.
In 2006, Z&S entered into a licensing agreement with General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, to sell a variety of packaged Mexican foods under the Minnesota companyâs Old El Paso label. Since then, the Old El Paso products marketed by Z&S had expanded to salsa kits, prepared salsas, peppers, bell peppers, onions, avocados and citrus.
Z&S is attempting to find another packer-shipper-marketer to take over the Old El Paso license, the former employee said.
Zaninovich and Loren Schoenburg formed Z&S in 1986. As of May 1 there were no pending Perishable Agricultural Commodity Act complaints against the company, according to Red Book Credit Services, a sister company to The Packer. Canadaâs Dispute Resolution Corp. reported on May 7 that Z&S was a member in good standing and there were no pending complaints.