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Market Fresh Produce LLC in Nixa, MO, and Bushmans' Inc. in Rosholt, WI, announced that they have merged, effective Oct. 1, with the goal of creating best-in-class efficiencies within the produce industry.

Steven Phipps, owner and chief executive officer of Market Fresh Produce, told The Produce News Oct. 6 that the merger brings together two strong and vibrant companies, and that it unites the "Market Fresh" brand with a century-old corporation.

“No internal changes are taking place for either company, except that we are combining our synergies,” said Mr. Phipps. “The transition will combine our efficiencies in packaging, procurement, logistics and sales.”

Mr. Phipps added, “Market Fresh will continue to meet all the needs and expectations of its retail and foodservice customers. As it pertains to the potato market, this merger ties our popular 'Market Fresh’ brand to the land. Potatoes are a highly competitive landscape, and we wanted to be as close to the land as possible. This merger enables us to do that.”

Bushmans’ will reap the benefits of gaining a larger assortment of products to offer its customers. Market Fresh handles a full line of potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, and its nationwide resources for these products will now benefit Bushmans’, which to date has had its strongest focus on potatoes.

The merger will not affect Bushmans’ current agreement with the “Dole” label. Mr. Phipps said that while both companies will prioritize the “Market Fresh” brand, the merger will also allow for private-label agreements.

“Primarily, the merger means a broader offering for both of our customers,” he added.

Both companies said that customers can continue to contact the sales representatives they have in the past. Mr. Phipps said that the fresh produce industry is built on relationships, and that includes salespeople.

“We will educate the salespeople at both companies, and they in turn will be prepared to offer the broader range of products to their customers,” he said. “There are no immediate plans to narrow the contact information for either. However, customers will now have the benefit of hearing about the total list of products resulting from this merger.”

In an Oct. 1 press release issued by Bushmans’, Mitch Bushman, chairman of the company, said, “I believe this partnership will be good for all parties involved. Market Fresh has done an outstanding job of establishing a brand within the produce industry. Specifically, they have focused on tomatoes, sweet potatoes and sweet onions, and we believe this will complement the strong presence we at Bushmans’ Inc. have established in the potato industry.”