ConAgra builds bulk in potato processing

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Potato

ConAgra Foods' acquisition of privately-held vegetable processor
Watts Brothers will strengthening its existing potato activities
under the Lamb Weston potato brand in North America, says the

The acquisition of Watts Brothers, for an undisclosed sum, was announced this week. The value of the transaction has not been disclosed but Watts Brothers has annual sales of around $100m. ConAgra claims Lamb Weston is the largest potato company in North America, with annual sales of around US$2bn. Since Watts Brothers is based in Kenewick, Washington, the move will strengthen the new owner's position in the Northwest - an important growing area - and therefore give it a more stable supply of raw material. According to the Washington State Potato Commission, the state has the second biggest potato production in the US (after Idaho), with 165,000 acres across the Skagit Valley, Yakima Valley and the Columbia Basin. The Washington potato industry is estimated to be worth some $3bn, including production, packing and processing. It alternates with wheat as the second largest agricultural crop. Nearly 90 per cent of Washington's potato yield ends up as processed potato products, such as fries, has browns or dehydrated products. ConAgra CEO Gary Rodkin said the company will benefit from a new strings to its supply chain. "Additionally, Watts Brothers' strong position in vegetables will complement existing potato product sales in both existing and new markets, providing additional opportunities for sales growth,"​ he said. Watts Brothers' customers are drawn from retail, foodservice and industry, both in the US and in Mexico, Japan, China, and other parts of the Far East. In fact, the two companies already had a firm relationship dating back a decade, thanks to a joint farming venture and Watts Brothers' has been a major supplier of frozen vegetables to ConAgra. Watts Brothers, which was founded by Don and Lori Watts in 1977, brings with it a vegetable processing facility, an organic dairy, a refrigerated warehouse, a packaging facility, and a farming operation covering some 20,000 acres. The management team and 350 employees will be offered employment with ConAgra's Lamb Weston.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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