Allens restructures business, sells frozen brands

by The City Wire staff ( 119 views 

SILOAM SPRINGS — Six months after Allens Inc. called off the merger with Seneca Foods, the local company announced it will soon close the sale a majority of its frozen vegetable operations to focus on its core business – canned and Southern-style frozen brands.

On Friday (Mar. 9), Allens reported the French company, Bonduelle Group, plans to buy four of its six frozen vegetable operations. The transaction is expected to close later this month. No financial terms were released.

Both companies call the deal a “win-win.”

"We're excited to put a renewed focus on the core of our business and the market segments we are most passionate about," said  Rick Allen, president and CEO of Allens Inc. "With this renewed concentration, we anticipate greater growth, more innovation and even better customer service and product quality. We're excited about what this will mean to the marketplace and to our customers and partners, overall."

Bonduelle North America produces more than 335,000 tons of vegetables grown in Quebec and Ontario, it allocates approximately 30% of its production for export to the United States, mainly as frozen produce via the Foodservice networks, according to a release from Bonduelle.

The deal is is structured as an asset purchase and concerns four facilities and a total of approximately 400 permanent employees of three plants in New York and as well as Fairwater, Wis.

The brands affected include: Chill Ripe and the frozen Garden Classics as well as a license to use certain brand names owned by Allens in the frozen business for a limited transitional period.

Allens said it will continue to own and operate its two Montezuma, Ga., facilities following the transaction, which specialize in frozen breaded vegetable products and Southern-style frozen vegetables.

Recently, in an effort to further the focus on canned and Southern-style products, Allens invested in growing their expertise, capabilities and capacity in three additional operations: Arkansas, Wisconsin and North Carolina, the release noted.

Local growers say they just signed their contracts to grow green beans a week ago.

“Our contract is pretty much the same as last year. I know Allen’s corporate is planting between 600 and 800 acres themselves and most of the growers I know are planting less acreage on contract,” said Dave Chamberlain of Maysvillle.

Chamberlain said because he can’t insure the green beans on contract for Allen’s he opted to plant less following last year’s weather-related catastrophic losses.

Cody Hays of Gentry said he will plant between 60 and 100 acres of beans this year, which is less than last year because he already has 200 acres of winter wheat in the ground.

“When the green beans make, there is nothing that pays better, they will go into the ground between April 18 and 20 and hopefully harvested 58 days later,” Chamberlain said.

Allens said it has added technology, equipment and resources that should help bring the products to market faster to better meet the growing demands year-round.

“I am glad to see Allens get back to what they know best — canned food,” Chamberlain said,

In 2006, Allens entered the frozen vegetable segment by acquiring the Birds Eye brand products. It opened its canning business in 1926.