“For the second consecutive year, Sunkist Growers generated more than $1 billion dollars in overall revenue,” Sunkist President and CEO Russell Hanlin told members as he summarized the 2010-11 operating year at the company’s Sherman Oaks headquarters on March 1. “Your cooperative is in excellent financial shape and is extremely well capitalized with close to $80 million in member equity and virtually no debt.” 

In other positive news, Hanlin reported grower payments for crops sold at $803 million. This was up $14 million over the previous year, yielding the best results of the past three years. He also noted that citrus juice and oil sales generated $88 million – the best results in more than a decade.

Reviewing last year’s results, Hanlin said that the sales team overcame the challenge of moving a 93-million-carton Navel orange crop − the largest in history − which delivered a large percentage of smaller sized fruit. To add to the difficulty, heavy rainfall adversely impacted the overall fruit quality. “Despite nature’s handicap, export shipments were some of the highest ever achieved,” he reported. Sales summaries for other citrus varieties showed increases over the previous year for Valencia oranges, lemons and limes, grapefruit, mandarins, tangerines and other specialties. 

“Sunkist’s role is to create grower value,” Hanlin said, “and we do this is in a variety of ways starting with the value we create with the fruit you grow.”  A recent change to Sunkist’s Citrus Juice & Oils business, which processes by-products fruit, is expected to yield positive results, he said.  “In 2011, we entered into a joint venture with another processor, Ventura Coastal, in what we believe is a fabulous deal for both companies.” The new 50%/50% joint venture processing company began operating both Sunkist’s Tipton facility and Ventura Coastal’s Visalia facility on February 1, 2012. “The operations of the two plants are extremely complementary,” he added.

New directors

New directors were seated at the annual meeting, which also saw the election of Mark D. Gillette, of Dinuba, CA, to his second year as Chairman. He is president of the Sunkist-affiliated Gillette Citrus Inc., a vertically integrated company that grows, packs and ships fresh citrus. Gillette is a fourth generation citrus grower who produces lemons, mandarins and Navels, Valencia, Moro and Cara Cara oranges in Fresno and Tulare counties.

Elected by the board to Vice Chairmanships for 2012 are Nick Bozick of Mecca, CA; Gerald Denni of Strathmore, CA; and James Finch of Ojai, CA.

Bozick is President of Richard Bagdasarian, Inc., a family run multi-commodity produce, growing packing and shipping business in the Coachella Valley. In addition to citrus, the company also handles table grapes and vegetables. He was elected to the Sunkist board of directors from the Riverside-Arlington Heights Fruit Exchange in 2000 and also serves on the board of Fruit Growers Supply Company, a cooperative and manufacturing affiliate of Sunkist. He served as Sunkist’s Chairman of the Board for five years, the maximum consecutive length of service.

Denni, a Sunkist member since 1986, was elected to the Sunkist board in 2007 from the California Citrus Growers Exchange where he serves as Administrator. Denni grows several varieties of oranges including Navels, Valencias, Cara Caras and Bloods in the Lindsay and Strathmore areas. He is General Manager of Golden Valley Citrus in Strathmore and co-owner of Mittman-Denni Citrus Management, which manages over 1,800 acres of California-grown citrus.

Finch was elected to the Sunkist board in 2004 from the Saticoy Fruit Exchange. A third generation citrus producer, he and his family grow lemons, oranges and avocados in Ventura County, California. In addition to his agricultural interests, Finch serves as a Trustee of the Monica Ross School.  

New directors seated for the 2012-13 year are Robert C. Davis, III, Ojai, CA, Villa Park Citrus Exchange; Robert B. Grether, Somis, CA, Saticoy Fruit Exchange; Warren C. Lyall, Pauma Valley, CA, Villa Park Citrus Exchange; and Scott A. McIntyre, Temecula, CA, Kaweah-Oxnard Fruit Exchange. 

Completing the 29 member board as representatives from California and Arizona exchanges are Caroline Alfheim, Clovis, CA; Craig Armstrong, Thermal, CA; George Bravante, Visalia, CA; Allen Camp, Ventura, CA; William Chaney, Yuma, AZ; Steve Cutting, Manhattan Beach, CA; Donald Dames, Oxnard, CA; Burt Fugate, Santa Maria, CA; Russell Katayama, Orosi, CA; Gary Laux, Porterville, CA; Brad Leichtfuss, Fillmore, CA; Manuel B. Martinez, Redlands, CA; Samuel Mayhew, Oxnard, CA; Thomas Mazzetti, Riverside, CA; Eric Meling, Ivanhoe, CA; Martin Mittman, Porterville, CA; Dick Neece, Porterville, CA; Cecelia Perry, Yuma, AZ; Richard Pidduck, Santa Paula, CA; Kevin Riddle, Orosi, CA; and Randy Veeh, Visalia, CA.