Blue Diamond Growers’ global almond sales soared to $1.5 billion, up $300 million in fiscal year 2013-14, paying record dividends of $1 billion to the cooperative’s grower-owners, according to president and CEO Mark Jansen.
“The people of Blue Diamond have never worked harder,” Jansen told almond growers at their 104th annual meeting. “The revenue growth and returns are evident. We continue to build our infrastructure in manufacturing and information technology to support our growth and long-term success. I am amazed how our growers overcame historic drought challenges to deliver this year's crop. In our co-op, it is both our growers and employees who make us successful.”
Jansen projected that within five years, the cooperative’s almond milk sales will surpass U.S. skim milk sales, while sales of the cooperative's Nut*Thins crackers will exceed Blue Diamond's entire retail business of 2007.
“Global demand and superior margins will more than triple the capacity of our Turlock plant,” he said, “and Blue Diamond is positioning itself to be recognized as one of the best places to work.”
Jansen noted future challenges, most notably, the impact of the drought. Even if California receives normal rain levels this winter, the crop is projected to be light over the next few years. “[University of California-Davis] research on water deprivation indicated that it could be three years before we see almond orchards recover," he said.
Margin enhancement projects for Blue Diamond included improved manufacturing yields and faster processing lines, resulting in a four-year compounded savings of $46 million. “Margin enhancements fuel our investments in new facilities, breakthrough advertising and global markets,” Jansen explained.
Energized by enhanced advertising investments and new products, sales thrived in North America where the branded consumer business leaped to a +$500 million brand in U.S. retail across the snack nuts, crackers and almond milk categories. More than 17 new products emerged, including a first-of-its-kind new Honey-flavored product line that includes Snack Nuts, Nut*Thins and Almond Breeze.
International expansion of Almond Breeze and Snack Almonds achieved 60 percent growth over the prior marketing year. Ten new international product introductions included Ketchup almonds in the United Kingdom.
The cooperative's newest Turlock Plant was named 2014 Plant of the Year by Food Engineering magazine. The enhanced capacity in Turlock enabled the Blue Diamond Global Ingredients manufacturing business to increase 105 percent in four years. (Blue Diamond Growers was also profiled in the August 2014 issue of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, a sister publication of Food Engineering. To read the cover story, visit www.snackandbakery.com/articles/87342-blue-diamond-growers-dream-plant-cooks-up-healthy-almond-snacks; to read the plant story, visit www.snackandbakery.com/articles/87343-high-tech-almond-processing-at-blue-diamond-growers.)