In a surprising development, Kingston Companies of Idaho Falls, ID, announced its intention to purchase J. R. Simplot Company's lone remaining fresh-pack plant in Idaho Falls and form a strategic research and marketing alliance.
Apparently willing to pull out of the fresh-pack business altogether, Simplot will move solely to a food processing operation. By the Dec. 31 takeover of the 44,000-square-foot plant, it will bring to an end exactly 70 years of Simplot fresh-pack operations.
In the 1930s, J.R. Simplot was the Pacific Northwest's leading fresh-packer. Simplot sold its Aberdeen plant and closed its Burley dehy plant in the late `80s.
However, it bought its Idaho Falls plant from Idaho Bonded Produce and Supply Co., in 1989. The plant was built in 1976. It also has two raw warehouses and a refrigerated warehouse. Simplot has been packing under its own Blue Ribbon brand and took over Idaho Bonded's Gold Seal label. Estimated packing volume is 1-1.5 million cwt a year.
Upon hearing news of the sell-out, Simplot growers met Wednesday to get an idea of what will become of their contracts. Simplot has formed joint-venture agreements with over 20 growers in eastern Idaho.
The plant employs 100 people. Kingston Companies is expected to retain personnel in the transaction. CEO Dave Kingston says they will make the operation their flagship plant. Kingston also plans on expanding the operation and conduct potato-related research, to design and test new manufacturing techniques, and to develop and explore new markets.
"Fresh-packing is no longer a core business for us," Fred Zerza, Simplot's spokesman said. "We will concentrate solely on potato processing."
Simplot bought out Nestle a year ago, taking over its processing plants in Nampa, ID, and two in Washington.
Kingston says they will continue to work with Simplot and area potato growers to market the balance of the 2001 crop. In future years, Simplot will continue to work with growers to ensure a supply of potatoes.
Kingston Companies, a family-owned, private company, markets other fresh produce such as onions, lettuce, broccoli and sweet pineapples to the wholesale and foodservice industries, and major restaurant chains. It has affiliates in Monterrey, CA; McLean, VA; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Lima, Peru.