Almonds are a trendy and healthy snack that can be found everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations, but the success of this small nut is the result of an industry wide effort to educate consumers on the benefits of almonds with Blue Diamond Growers co-operative leading the charge.
Blue Diamond President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Jansen likens the almond co-operative to a duck on water: an appearance of calm gliding from above ground, but furious paddling underneath the water. This analogy aptly describes the co-operative that has managed to pay their growers 21 percent more than the previous year on 7 percent less supply and bring in a record income of $1.2 billion dollars for the 2012-2013 year — a success attributed to the thousands of employees and growers that make Blue Diamond an industry leader.
Blue Diamond is composed of over 3,000 California Almond growers, half of which attended the Annual Growers meeting in Modesto on Wednesday to celebrate the co-ops success and hear plans for the upcoming year.
While the official theme of the annual meeting was “Building Global Leadership,” the motif that can be traced throughout the series of speeches to growers and employees was to enjoy the success, but prepare for change.
Blue Diamond’s marketing efforts took center stage at the meeting with the international advertising campaign netting a 14 percent increase in value-added sales despite the 7 percent crop decline for the 2012-2013 year. With the summer 2012 Olympics advertising campaign serving as a catalyst, a rise in Blue Diamond product consumption followed suit with a 30 percent increase, or $500 million, of sales across product lines.
While Blue Diamond continues to increase its presence globally by advertising on three continents, President of the Board Clinton Shick spotlighted a major local contribution: The opening of the Turlock plant in June.
“The biggest example we have of delivering excellence is Turlock,” Shick said.
Buses left every 20 minutes Wednesday morning to shuttle guests to the Turlock plant to get a look at the state-of-the-art facility.
“We’re really glad we made the decision to anchor in Turlock,” said Bruce Lish, general manager of plant operations that oversees the Sacramento, Salida, and Turlock locations.
Blue Diamond was able to acquire the land, get the entitlements, build the facility, and begin operations at the Turlock plant in 24 months, a process that typically takes five years or more in California. Lish and Board member Charles Crivelli heavily credited the City of Turlock for the work they did to make the project as smooth as possible.
“Not only did they prepare the ground and area for a quick build, but they also had the internal infrastructure built so that they could deliver upon the commitment they had made. And I have to tell you, outside of this city that is unheard of in the state of California,” said Lish.
Blue Diamond is expecting further growth after the November announcement of a partnership with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association as the official snack nut of the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Snowboarding, and U.S. Freeskiing for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Such global success is pleasing to growers and grower success is at the heart of the Blue Diamond culture by nature of its co-operative structure.
“A co-operative is kind of like a family, there’s a lot of synergies there and relationships,” said Charles Crivelli.
While growers continue to enjoy the fruits of their success and prepare for the upcoming year executives were quick to reveal their awareness that success, just like farming, is cyclical.
“While we’re enjoying current price levels, I’m encouraging us to be prudent,” said Shick.