Chiquita Brands, a former IMC client, found itself in play this year, with competing offers from the Ireland-base Fyffes, the world’s oldest fruit brand, and a Brazilian partnership of Cutrale, one of South America’s largest citrus producers, and Brazilian banking giant Safra. When shareholders rejected the Fyffes deal, Chiquita ended up negotiating an all-cash sale to Cutrale-Safra.
This deal is the latest in a series of Brazilian acquisitions of great U.S. consumer brands, include Burger King, Heinz and Budweiser. Most of these acquisitions have driven growth through budget-cutting and disciplined management techniques.
While we might see the same practices from Cutrale/Safra, the acquired brand also appears to offer some strategic growth opportunities as well.
Cutrale’s concentration in citrus and orange juice led to its growth but now poses some limitations on growth. Orange juice sales are down globally as consumers choose alternate morning beverages, and citrus plantations face unique crop risks that are threatening growers from Florida to Brazil.
Moving into bananas offers Cutrale a chance to diversify its fruit offerings – but it also offers something more. Cutrale, which has been a wholesale supplier of juice, does not own a well-known brand – until now. I hope that the Brazilians will consider extending the Chiquita brand to their own products.
While it’s true that Chiquita has been associated only with bananas, consumers have readily allowed other fruit brands to extend beyond their original categories.
Sunkist began as an orange brand but now sells a wide range of citrus fruit and grapes; through licensing partners the brand also offers juices, sodas, fruit snacks, vitamins, baking mix, frozen novelties (we did that deal), and more.
Similarly, Dole, which started as a pineapple brand, now sells almost every kind of fruit under its brand – including bananas – as well as vegetables, salad, soup, and fresh cut flowers.
Until now, Chiquita has apparently had a limited perception of its own brand; while we helped them extend to categories like baking mixes, the only other branded fruit it sells are pineapples.
For Cutrale, the Chiquita brand presents an immediate opportunity to apply a universally-known consumer brand to its orange juice, and then to consider applying this great brand to any number of other fresh/fruit products.
While it may require some communication to explain this broader concept of the brand to consumers, it’s not more of a leap than Dole and Sunkist have already successfully undergone, and can ensure that Chiquita will have a place at the table, whatever we are eating and drinking for breakfast.