Established in 1982, FruitSmart produces juices, concentrates, blends, purees, fibres, seed and seed powders and other value-added products in the US and internationally


Image: Universal to acquire Washington-based fruit and vegetable processor. Photo: Courtesy of pasja1000/Pixabay.

Universal Corporation, a Virginia-based agri-products supplier, has agreed to acquire FruitSmart, a fruit and vegetable ingredient processor, for an undisclosed amount.

Headquartered in the Yakima Valley of the state of Washington, FruitSmart was established in 1982. It supplies a wide range of juices, concentrates, blends, purees, fibres, seed and seed powders and other value-added products to food, beverage and flavour companies across the US and internationally.

The company processes apples, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, pears, cranberries and strawberries as well as other fruits and vegetables. It has a workforce of 200, working at two manufacturing facilities.

Universal Corporation claims that FruitSmart is well-positioned to capitalise on the recent shift in market dynamics and consumer behaviour including the shift towards health and wellness, favouring natural clean-label ingredient producers and the rise of fruit as a natural clean-label sweetener alternative to processed sugar.

Universal Corporation chairman, president and CEO George Freeman, III said: “Since outlining our capital allocation strategy in May 2018, we have been identifying a pipeline of strategic opportunities in adjacent markets around our core strengths: leveraging our highly localized rural infrastructure to source and process high-value, non-commodity, semi-perishable varietals from a large, reliant grower base for customers who demand fully traceable and compliant inputs.”

“Given the worldwide addressable market opportunity for fruit and vegetable sourcing and processing, and the similar supplier dynamics and scale benefits to our existing business, this transaction represents a foundational step in building out a broader agri-products services platform and has the potential to be a new source of growth to drive future value creation for our shareholders.”

The deal is expected to close in the current fiscal year

Universal Corporation expects that subject to customary closing conditions, the deal to close in the current fiscal year. Upon closing of the deal, FruitSmart president Terry Chambers will continue with his position, leading the business.

Freeman continued saying: “With a healthy balance sheet and a demonstrated ability to generate free cash flow, Universal Corporation will continue to explore additional growth opportunities in plant-based ingredients processing and other attractive adjacencies, while maintaining our commitment to our investment grade credit rating and to increasing our quarterly dividend on an annual basis, as we have done for 49 consecutive years.”

FruitSmart is also touted to benefit from growing consumer interest in premium ingredients including custom blends, not-from-concentrate and dry products and across markets that use FruitSmart products, including ciders, purees and nutraceuticals.