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Vanguard enters NW stone fruit deal through Pride Packing acquisition

The recent purchase of Pride Packing Co. in Wapato, WA, by Vanguard International Group increases Vanguard’s presence in the Northwest stone fruit deal significantly, and 2017 is its first season as a grower-packer-shipper.

With Pride’s 3,000 acres of fruit trees, packing facility and cold storage, Vanguard continues as Vanguard Pride to “develop a global vertically integrated fresh fruit organization” and is “able to supply fresh produce 52 weeks per year from its farms to its customers,” an announcement of the acquisition said earlier in May.

Founded in 1991, Vanguard has become a leading grower, packer, marketer and seller of multiple commodities and has long been an exporter of Washington fruit. The merger brings Vanguard into the production arena, which company CEO Craig Stauffer said compliments the export side of the business.

In addition to the Wapato office, Vanguard has branch offices in Issaquah, WA, as well as in South America, South Africa, the Pacific Rim and Western Europe.

Stauffer said on May 31 that Vanguard Pride’s stone fruit season in Washington’s Yakima Valley is set to kick off June 12 with cherries, followed by apricots on June 18. Peaches and nectarines will come off around July 10-12, Stauffer said.

Brett Calhoun, Vanguard Pride’s general manager and vice president of Washington farming operations, added, “The 2017 growing season for Vanguard Pride has been great, and we have great quality fruit hanging on our trees, including very nice crops of cherries, apricots, peaches, and nectarines.” 

Pride Packing, which was founded in 1972 by Ernest Spada Jr. in Wapato, started in apples and pears. It expanded into apricots, peaches and nectarines and became a leader in the Washington tree fruit industry. Spada will continue in the newly formed Vanguard Pride as Chairman Emeritus, and Calhoun brings his former position with Pride to the operation as well.

Stauffer told The Produce News, “We continue to be very focused on producing quality-assured, food-safety assured tree ripened fruit to give consumers the best possible eating experience and to help our customers drive repeat sales.”

To that end, he said, “We have planted new yellow nectarine varieties and are transitioning some of our finer blocks of apricots, peaches and nectarines to organic production.” 

Byron Ihnen, Vanguard Pride’s vice president of sales, said a “robust export program” has been designed, and he added it uses “Vanguard’s longstanding export strengths, taking advantage of the synergies that exist between Vanguard International and Pride.”

He added, “Programs and forward commitments are already in place for our cherries and stone fruit.” 

“We are thrilled to welcome Pride to Vanguard and to continue our working relationship with this industry leader,” Stauffer said.