Blue Diamond Growers has purchased 88 acres of land in Turlock, Calif., as part of a 15-year expansion strategy.

The company - the world’s largest almond marketer and processor - still will operate its Sacramento and Salida-based plants, and in fact upgrades are planned at both facilities, according to a Blue Diamond media release.

However, neither site had enough land to allow for expansion. As a result, the property in Turlock will serve as the major expansion location, and is expected to meet the company’s increasing global market opportunities and crop supply.

The three-phased project is expected to provide training and other new opportunities for current employees in Sacramento, Salida and, eventually, in Turlock.

“The California almond crop has doubled over the last decade,” explains Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond president and ceo. “The unprecedented growth in our Blue Diamond consumer brand and ingredient business requires us to expand our capacity beyond our Sacramento and Salida operations.”

Janson says Turlock was chosen after an exhaustive search partially because the the community’s city council was so helpful.

“Turlock is exactly the pro-business partner we need to meet the difficult regulatory challenges in California,” he says. “Turlock has shown it can provide the economic climate we seek so that we can grow together.”

The phased project is designed to minimize initial construction costs and to build Blue Diamond’s growing consumer brand and ingredient business at a significant compounded return to the grower-owners of the cooperative over the next 15 years and beyond.

The investment is focused on new automated technologies that will increase yields and reduce handling to provide additional cost savings at all locations.

It also will provide opportunities to achieve the highest levels of a safe food environment for producing premium quality almonds.

The company says global demand for almonds continues to increase. Specifically, 2010 crop shipments exceeded previous shipments by 14% for a five-year annual growth rate of 13%.

As a result, Blue Diamond’s ingredients business increased 50 percent to date in 2010-11, while its snack almond business increased 19 percent; Nut*Thins cracker business is up 32 percent; and its Refrigerated Almond Breeze non-dairy milk is up a whopping 121 percent during the same period.

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