Blue Diamond Growers' global almond sales soared to $1.2 billion, up $189 million in fiscal year 2012-13. Value-added sales volume increased by 14 percent, even with a crop that was 7 percent smaller, according to President and CEO Mark Jansen who addressed the cooperative's grower owners at their 103rd annual meeting. Value-added sales now represent more than 60 percent of the co-op's revenue, including manufactured ingredients and consumer retail products.
"We accelerated our transformation into a global branded food manufacturing company, while making significant investments to ensure continued profitable growth. In April we opened our Almond Innovation Center on our Sacramento campus followed by the June grand opening of our Turlock plant, the largest single investment in the history of the California almond industry," said Jansen. "We will lead the world tree nut industry in almond product innovation and double our capacity with cutting edge plant technology designed for producing the highest quality almond products in the world."
"There's no other way to express the 2012 crop results than to say, 'excellence delivered,'" said Chairman of the Board Clinton Shick, a grower from McFarland. "This is the third year in a row for returning record revenue per acre to Blue Diamond growers. The 2012 crop exceeded the 2011 record by 21 percent, making the final total grower payment of $828 million the largest single payment ever made to almond growers!"
Margin enhancement projects included improved manufacturing yields and faster processing lines, resulting in cost reductions of $11.3 million, for a three-year compounded savings of $38 million. "Margin enhancements fuel our investments in new facilities, breakthrough advertising, and global markets," Jansen explained. "It also allows us to pay our growers industry-leading returns."
Energized by enhanced advertising investments and new products, sales thrived in 2012-13. In North America, the branded consumer business increased 30 percent to $469 million. Over 15 new products emerged that included Iced Coffee Almond Breeze, Artisan Nut*Thins and coffee and fruit flavored snack almonds. Snack Almond sales jumped 22 percent versus prior year, while Chilled Almond Breeze sales skyrocketed 74 percent and Aseptic Almond Breeze climbed 40 percent. Artisan Nut*Thins were up 38 percent over the same period.
Sales are expected to stay firm as Blue Diamond partners with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to be the official snack nut of the U.S. Ski, Snowboarding and Freeskiing Teams as they prepare for the Winter Olympics Season in 2014. Blue Diamond Almonds will be integrated into the athletes' nutritional meals at the USSA Center of Excellence and on the road at training camps, competitions and the U.S. Team's mobile kitchen in Europe.
Internationally, Blue Diamond's branded sales were up 90 percent in volume versus the prior year, while net sales were up 95 percent. For the first time in the cooperative's history, branded advertising aired on three continents—North America, Australia and Europe.
Blue Diamond Global Ingredients sold fewer commodity almonds in a short crop, but still managed to grow its manufactured ingredient business volume by 14 percent. This business has doubled in size over the last four years.
"I am most proud of the employees of Blue Diamond," said Jansen. "We often use the metaphor of a duck on the water. Above the water or outside the organization, the changes they execute may look easy. Under the water, or inside the organization, their feet are vigorously paddling. The fact is they work hard delivering the benefits of almonds to the world."