Blue Diamond poised for record growth

Speaking to over 2000 almond growers at Blue Diamond's centennial annual meeting, President and CEO, Mark Jansen, optimistically predicted that "within four years, at current growth rates, demand for CA almonds could reach 2 billion pounds."

"Currently, industry almond consumption is trending toward a record 1.6 billion pounds with carryout at uncharacteristically low levels," added Jansen. "Even in a record year, this is a clear indication that demand is exceeding supply!"

Speaking from a background of retail experience, the former President and CEO of Schwan's Food Service Division told Blue Diamond's grower-owners, "It is clear that I have inherited responsibility for a company that is well-positioned and ready to climb to a higher level of prosperity. I will work tirelessly to grow the brand internationally."

Jansen outlined a strategic direction to identify markets outside the U.S. where health-conscious consumers are inclined to make Blue Diamond almonds their favorite product. "The success story of 2010 is that demand for almonds in the U.S. is growing by double digits," he noted.

"U.S. almond demand is the #1 reason for firming price levels for growers. I give credit to Blue Diamond's product innovation in new categories like Almond Breeze non-dairy beverages, Nut*Thins crackers and our diverse portfolio of snacking and ingredient almonds."

According to its just released 2009-10 annual report, Blue Diamond's branded consumer business sales continued its 10-year double-digit compounded annual growth rate. The U.S. continues to rank as the #1 global market at 450 million pounds, a 39 percent increase in demand over 2008.

The cooperative's global franchise as the premier almond ingredient supplier quadrupled in 2009-10 versus the previous year; the processed ingredient business that sells to major global food companies averaged a 30 percent increase. As California's largest food export, almond sales to China, India and the Middle East also grew by double-digits.

"Our plan to expand our brand globally will dictate that we invest in new plant technologies more significantly to generate higher yields and increase efficiency," said Jansen. "We have projected a 15-year time horizon to gradually phase in our capital investments while consistently delivering superior grower returns."

At the same time, chairman of the board and grower from McFarland, CA, Clinton Shick, who also addressed the growers, said the key to hiring Jansen was his "unique business talents which are expected to take us to the next level of profitability and competitive performance."

In his praise of President and CEO emeritus, Doug Youngdahl, Shick said, "Doug reshaped how the almond industry views supply and demand. This translated to new market realities and an approach to assessing market dynamics that increased profitability beyond traditional expectations in record crop years."

In his final address to growers, Youngdahl called Blue Diamond "The best cooperative in agriculture." "While there are many reasons for the firmer market today, our much publicized optimism amidst a sea of pessimism made a difference in the last decade," he added. "This belief that almond price in the marketplace is determined by supply, demand and confidence is one I rigorously applied and encourage the almond industry to continue over the next decade."

A copy of speeches and the annual report are online at http://www.bluediamond.com/index.cfm?navid=85.

View the 10-year summary of 2000-10 here: http://www.bluediamond.com/flipbooks/almond_people_last_10_years/