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$885 Million Deal Broadens Marketer Beyond Bananas

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NEW YORK ( -- Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International said it will acquire Performance Food Group's Fresh Express unit for $855 million.
Fresh Express is the nation's No. 1 seller of packaged salads.

Headquartered in Salinas, Calif., Fresh Express, which is the No. 1 marketer of packaged salads in the U.S., does $1 billion in sales a year and employs 4,000 at nine facilities across the country.

Volatile banana market
The purchase of Fresh Express, which has a category-leading 40% market share, is expected to help Chiquita diversify beyond the volatile banana market it is best known for. In recent years, that volatility has driven Chiquita to file chapter 11 bankruptcy and the company has long sought to expand into other related arenas.

"We continue to focus on satisfying the primary consumer needs of health, taste, freshness and convenience and Fresh Express' products are a perfect fit," Fernando Aguirre, chairman-CEO of Chiquita, said in a statement. Mr. Aguirre also said the acquisition fits into the company's plan to become a "consumer-driven leader of branded produce."

Keeping Fresh Express name
Chiquita will continue to use the Fresh Express name to market value-added bagged salads, but will convert Fresh Express' fresh-cut fruit products to the Chiquita name.

Chiquita in the past has attempted to use its name to sell more than just bananas. Among those efforts was a 2002 campaign from Southfield, Mich.-based independent agency Doner, which used Chiquita's longtime Miss Chiquita icon to hawk an expanded portfolio of fresh fruits and vegetables in TV ads that offered the theme "Chiquita. Perfect for Life."

Chiquita spent $1 million on measured media from January through October of 2004, while Fresh Express spent nothing, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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