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Del Monte

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Del Monte is probably the world's most famous fruit brand, well-known around the globe for a wide variety of fresh and processed fruit products. Yet this quintessential brand has endured a series of dramatic challenges since its heyday during the 1970s. Once a single global business, Del Monte was broken up in 1989, and its various constituent parts have passed through the hands of numerous owners, of whom two at least have ended up as fugitives from international justice. The brand is still split between several companies, but the number of separate marketers is gradually being reduced through merger and consolidation. In the most significant such transaction, US company Del Monte Foods - also then America's #3 petfood manufacturer - split in two in 2014, selling its fruit and vegetable operations to international rival Del Monte Pacific before relaunching as Big Heart Pet Brands (and later being acquired by JM Smucker). The biggest company by total sales in the widely spread Del Monte family is now Fresh Del Monte, which has global rights to the brand on fresh fruit and vegetables.


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Competitors to Del Monte Foods' processed products in the US include Green Giant in vegetables, Dole in fruit, and Kraft Heinz, ConAgra's Hunts, Campbell Soup's Prego, Ragu and others, as well as private label manufacturers such as Seneca Foods and Pacific Coast Producers. See Food Sector for other companies.

Brands & Activities

Del Monte is undoubtedly the world's best-known fruit and vegetable brand, but it is still most widely associated (however inaccurately) with canned rather than fresh produce. Coordinated rejuvenation of the brand has been complicated immensely by the fact that ownership is still split between several different separate companies. A process of consolidation is slowly beginning to take place, but that too has been delayed by fierce competition in other sectors in which the various Del Monte brand owners operate. Gradually, however, ownership of the Del Monte name is beginning to consolidate.

Del Monte has long been established as the leading worldwide brand for premium quality fruit, and encompasses a wide variety of different products ranging from fresh and canned fruits to numerous fruit-based products such as juices and beverages, jams, and even fruit-based yogurts and desserts. The brand has global sales well in excess of $1bn, yet the business is still split up between several different companies around the world. Internationally, the Del Monte brand has had a distinctly chequered past, passing through the hands of numerous owners, several of whom have been under investigation for fraud or other charges.

Del Monte Foods

Del Monte Foods of California is the leading marketer of processed fruit and vegetables in the US. The range of Del Monte processed products runs literally from A (for apricots) to Z (for zucchini), available in a wide variety of servings and styles from standard tins to single-serving snack portions. In a bid to throw off its old-fashioned image as primarily a tinned fruit business, the company has successfully launched a series of premium-priced chilled snacks and meal servings including Del Monte Fruit Naturals and Fruit Chillers frozen sorbets.

Del Monte is also among America's leading marketers of tomato products including ketchup and juices. Sister brand S&W is is the #1 tomato and tinned beans brand in the Western US, while Contadina is the country's best-selling tomato paste brand and its #2 tomato sauce. In 2013, Del Monte Foods claimed a market share of 27% of the US processed fruit sector, 24% of processed vegetables, and 11% of processed tomatoes.

In 2002, the company agreed to acquire a substantial portfolio of other US food products then being divested by Heinz. These included premium soup range College Inn, America's #2 branded wet soup with a dominant position in the northeastern US. However the biggest business added to the portfolio in the Heinz deal was that company's substantial petfoods division. This was separate from the fruit and vegetable business in 2014 and is now managed by Big Heart Pet Brands. By that point, several other Heinz food brands had already been sold. Nature's Goodness, the #2 US baby food brand, as well as a private label soup business, were sold to TreeHouse Foods in 2006. StarKist, the country's best-selling tinned tuna brand, was sold in 2008 to DongWon Enterprises of Korea for around $360m.

At the end of 2010, Del Monte Foods agreed to a private equity buyout by an investor group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, with a price tag of around $5bn, including debt. The deal completed in March 2011. The KKR buyout also added considerable additional debt to the balance sheet. Total debt at April 2012 was almost $5.2bn. The following October Far East brandowner Del Monte Pacific agreed to acquire the US fruit and vegetable business from Del Monte Foods for almost $1.7bn. That acquisition completed in Feb 2014, at which point the old company adopted the name Big Heart Pet Brands. Although the US Del Monte business is now wholly owned by Del Monte Pacific, it is incorporated as a separate company under the name Del Monte Food Holdings.

Del Monte Foods Holdings reported revenues of $1.71bn for the year to May 2015, but a net loss of $42.5m. It still has almost $940m of debt, at a cost of $66m in interest during the year.

Del Monte Pacific

Although it owned the Del Monte name, Del Monte Foods only had rights to use the brand on products in the US and South America. Elsewhere the name was shared between no less than five other companies, each with a perpetual, royalty-free license to use the brand in specific regions or market sectors. The biggest of these was already Del Monte Pacific, originally a Filipino company, now headquartered in Singapore. This controls the brandname in the Philippines and India and also farms vast pineapple plantations. It processes its produce to other Del Monte companies as well as other resellers, and markets canned pineapples and pineapple concentrate, tomato-based products, other fruit products and juices under the Del Monte and Today's brand names. In India, Del Monte products are marketed through part-subsidiary FieldFresh Foods, a joint venture with the Bharti congolmerate. Prior to the Del Monte Foods acquisition, Pacific also owned the S&W tomato products brand outside the Americas and Australia. The business is majority controlled by NutriAsia of the Philippines and the Campos family.

Sales for Del Monte Pacific in 2013, pre-merger, were $492m, with net profit of $32m. As a result of the merger, combined sales of Del Monte Pacific for 2015 rocketed to $2.16bn, but there was a net loss of $38m, mainly as a result of acquisition expenses.

Fresh Del Monte

As a result, Del Monte Pacific leapfrogged another company, Fresh Del Monte Produce, which has worldwide rights to use the brand on fresh fruit and vegetables, and acquired rights to use the name for prepared foods as well in the EMEA region from 2004. Also headquartered in the US, it is the world's leading marketer of fresh pineapples; the #1 marketer of fresh melons in the US and UK; and the #3 marketer of bananas worldwide; as well as a leading global distributor of grapes, citrus, apples, pears and other non-tropical fruit in selected worldwide markets. It too manages extensive fruit plantations, primarily of bananas. Far from co-existing peaceably, Del Monte Foods and Fresh Del Monte have clashed repeatedly in US courts since 2008 over the precise definition of the word "fresh". Fresh Del Monte claimed that Del Monte Foods had repeatedly infringed its rights with the chilled items sold under the Fruit Naturals sub-brand.

Until recently another company, Del Monte Europe, owned rights in the EMEA region for processed fruits. Previously a division of Cirio of Italy, it was acquired by Fresh Del Monte in 2004 for around $340m. Del Monte remains the leading brand for canned fruit and pineapple in most Western European countries. In the UK it is also the leading manufacturer of ambient fruit juices under the Del Monte and Just Juice brands, and markets the Fruitini range of desserts and puddings and Fruit Express snacks. It was this business which created the "Man from Del Monte" character as the focal point of a television campaign first launched in 1980. Since then, The Man from Del Monte, who roams the world in his white suit and Panama hat searching for the finest quality fruit, has become one of Europe's longest-running advertising concepts.

Fresh del Monte reported revenues in 2015 of $4.06bn, and net income of $62m. It generates just over half its revenues in North America, and almost $3.7bn from fresh fruit and vegetables, including $1.9bn from bananas and $525m from pineapples.

Del Monte Pacific and Fresh Del Monte spent several years in litigation with one another over rights for different types of products in regions around the world. In 2017, they called a truce on these rows and instead established a joint venture to market chilled juices, fruit snacks and other products, initially in the US. The two companies also said they would launch a chain of Del Monte-branded retail outlets to sell their produce.

Other companies

In Canada and Mexico, rights to the Del Monte brand were acquired in 2012 by ConAgra; but then sold on in 2018 to Bonduelle. Del Monte Pan American of Panama has rights in Central America and the Caribbean. Nippon Del Monte, a subsidiary of soy sauce giant Kikkoman, markets the Del Monte brand in Asia and the South Pacific excluding the Philippines and India.


Following the 2014 split, Nils Lommerin was appointed as president of the slimmed-down Del Monte Foods fruit and vegetable division of Del Monte Pacific. He was previously EVP & COO. (Former group CEO David West remained with the renamed Big Heart Pet Brands). David Withycombe is COO, with Liam Farrell as VP, marketing.

Del Monte Foods' new parent company Del Monte Pacific is controlled and led by CEO Joselito Campos, with Luis Alejandro as COO.

Mohammed Abu-Ghazaleh is chairman & CEO of Fresh Del Monte Produce, as well as its controlling shareholder. Hani El-Naffy is president & COO. Other executives include Richard Contreras (CFO), Emanuel Lazopoulos (SVP, North America sales, marketing & product management), Paul Rice (SVP, North America operations) and Jean-Pierre Bartoli (SVP, Europe & Africa).


The exact origins of the Del Monte name are unclear, but the packaged foods business was first named in honour of a famed hotel in Monterey, California. In the late 1880s Tillman & Bendel, a small Californian foods distributor, was awarded the contract to supply coffee to Monterey's prestigious Hotel Del Monte, then reportedly "the most magnificent seaside resort in the world". (The building still exists, although it now houses part of Monterey's Naval Postgraduate School). The name had a certain cachet and in 1891 the distribution company, by now known as Oakland Preserving, appropriated the name for its new range of canned peaches, which were described as being of "Del Monte quality".

Shortly afterwards, Oakland joined with several other West Coast canneries to form the California Fruit Canners Association (CFCA), and by a process of repetition the description "Del Monte quality" gradually turned into a brand name. By 1915, CFCA was packing more than 50 different products under that name, including berries, jams, honey, cranberry sauce, squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, baked beans and olives. Following a further set of mergers in 1916, the business became known as California Packing Corporation (later Calpak), and the new company made Del Monte its sole brand, adopting the now familiar red shield and Olde English typescript. A nationwide advertising campaign launched the same year to introduce the Del Monte brand coast-to-coast, boasting that "California's finest fruits and vegetables are packed under the Del Monte brand."

Over the following years the company expanded dramatically. In particular Del Monte set out to reduce its reliance on high-priced produce bought from third-party growers in the US. Following World War II, the company began acquiring or establishing fruit farms and processing facilities around the world, in South Africa, the Philippines and other countries, and expanded distribution of the Del Monte brand internationally. Although it now seems hard to believe, fresh tropical fruits were a genuine luxury in most non-tropical markets, even as late as the 1980. High transport costs made it impractical to get fast-ripening fruit into the shops before it went bad, and so canning became a hugely important industry. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, literally millions of consumers throughout the world received their first taste (and certainly their most regular servings) of pineapple, peach, apricot, perhaps even pear, out of a tin labelled Del Monte. In 1967, to reflect this international profile and the growing fame of its main brand, Calpak changed its name to Del Monte Corporation.

In 1979, the business was acquired by tobacco giant RJ Reynolds, as it sought to diversify its interests. The company purchased a string of other businesses (including beverage brand Hawaiian Punch, transferred to Del Monte's control in 1980) and the shopping spree peaked in 1985 when RJ Reynolds acquired international foods business Nabisco, creating RJR Nabisco. By 1989 the Del Monte division had sales of around $2.6bn and was firmly established as the world's dominant fresh and tinned fruit brand. But the business was already past its peak. Huge improvements in global distribution meant that fresh fruit was far more widely available than it had been when Del Monte made its name, cheaper and far more desirable than the "old-fashioned" tinned variety. At the same time, RJR Nabisco was itself struggling with huge debts, having gone private in a massively expensive management buyout the year before. Del Monte was a prime candidate for disposal, and RJR Nabisco's new backers Kohlberg Kravis Roberts sought to maximize the value of the sale by breaking the business up.

The main fresh fruit business, Del Monte Tropical Fruit, was sold in 1989 for $875m to UK-based Polly Peck, a former fruit exporter from Cyprus which had transformed itself into an international trading company through a string of acquisitions. The worldwide processing and canning operations were sold separately to an investor group funded by Merrill Lynch, and which included Japanese food manufacturer Kikkoman, which acquired rights the the brand in Asia in return for their involvement. Only one part of the global Del Monte business was retained within RJR Nabisco, the operations in Canada. (These were later sold along with the rest of the Nabisco food portfolio to Kraft). As the decline of the business hastened, especially in more sophisticated European markets, Merrill Lynch and its investors sold off the European arm of the business to a management buyout in 1990, creating Del Monte International, based in London. The US operations were restructured as Del Monte Foods Company, and the company's Hawaiian Punch fruit juice brand was sold to Procter & Gamble.

The recession of the early 1990s led to a further redistribution of the group's assets. In 1990, Polly Peck collapsed spectacularly after the UK government brought fraud charges against its controlling shareholder and chairman, the Turkish Cypriot tycoon Asil Nadir. He fled the country, and the fruit business was taken into administration. It was eventually acquired in 1992 by Mexican banker Carlos Cabal Peniche for around $560m. In a bid to reunite parts of the business, Peniche negotiated a deal in 1994 to buy Del Monte Foods of the US as well for around $1bn. But before that deal could be completed - and in a bizarre echo of the Asil Nadir scandal - the Mexican government issued a warrant for Peniche's arrest on charges of fraud. He too fled the country and his assets, including the Del Monte fresh fruit company, were confiscated by the government. In 1996, the Mexican government appointed another banker, Eduardo Bours, to sell off the assets seized from Peniche. The Del Monte fresh fruit business was sold to the Palestinian-born Abu-Ghazaleh family in 1996 for $125m. They floated the business the following year in New York. (Later there were allegations that the family had illegally influenced the deal, possibly by bribing Bours to disregard a higher offer for the business from another bidder. A lawsuit is still dragging through the US courts).

Meanwhile Del Monte International, the processing and canning business, endured its own bumpy journey through the decade. In 1991, it was acquired by South Africa's Royal Corporation, becoming Del Monte Royal. At the same time, the group's substantial pineapple and banana plantations in the Philippines were spun off and floated in Singapore as yet another company, Del Monte Pacific, although the new Del Monte Royal retained a sizeable shareholding. In a bid to widen its presence in Europe further, Del Monte Royal agreed an alliance with Italian tomato processor Cirio, which acquired a minority stake in the business. Italy was already, along with the UK, one of Del Monte International's biggest markets, and Cirio had ambitious plans of its own. The Italian company steadily added to its shareholding over the following years before finally assuming full control of the business in 2001. But as the economy turned sour, the newly renamed Cirio Del Monte encountered its own financial crisis. The company defaulted on bond payments in 2002 and was also forced into administration. (In yet another instance of alleged financial wrongdoing, charges of fraud were later brought against Cirio's former chairman Sergio Cragnotti).

Meanwhile Del Monte Foods of the US changed its management, and continued to down-size, selling off other assets, including its desserts division to Kraft in 1995. Finally the business was sold again in 1997, this time to venture capital firm Texas Pacific, which floated it two years later as Del Monte Foods. The same year, Del Monte acquired leading US tomato products brand Contadina. That business had been established in 1918 as Bell Canto Foods, a manufacturer of tomato paste, by three Italian families in New York after they found they could no longer get hold of supplies from Italy as a result of World War I. They selected Contadina (meaning "woman of the fields") as their main brandname. In 1963 the business had been acquired by Carnation, and expanded nationally. Carnation was later acquired in turn by Nestle, and Contadina was sold off in 1997. Two years later, Del Monte added a third brand with the purchase of S&W, a leading tinned fruit and vegetable brand in the Western US. (It was originally founded in 1896 by the Sussman and Wormser families, after whom it is named). But the most significant acquisitions was a transforming deal to acquire $1.8bn of packaged foods brands being divested by HJ Heinz.

Last full revision 22nd March 2016

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