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Ahold and Delhaize Group shareholders overwhelmingly approved the proposed merger between the two companies. Shareholders of Ahold also approved the appointments of members of the future Ahold Delhaize management board and the supervisory board. The transaction is on track for completion in mid-2016, at which time the board appointments will take effect.

"We are excited to receive this overwhelming support from our shareholders for this merger and all other related resolutions," Delhaize Chairman Mats Jansson said in a press release. "Today’s vote underscores their clear appreciation of the strategic rationale for the combination of our two companies, which will create a stronger and more innovative food retail company, with enhanced scale and increased relevance in local communities. We are moving one step closer to the completion of this merger process, which is expected to take place mid-2016."  

“We deeply appreciate the overwhelming support of our shareholders, as well as their confidence in the future of Ahold Delhaize," Ahold Chairman Jan Hommen said in a press release. "This is a critical milestone in the completion of our proposed merger, which will create an even stronger international food retailer for all stakeholders.”

On June 24, 2015, Ahold and Delhaize announced their intention to merge, creating an international retailer with more than 6,500 stores. The combined company, Ahold Delhaize, will bring together more than 375,000 associates serving more than 50 million customers each week across the United States and Europe.

Executives representing top blueberry producing, packing, exporting and importing companies in the United States and Peru announced the establishment of the first binational council of its kind for the blueberry category, the U.S.-Peru Blueberry Council.

The council’s primary purposes will be to create and facilitate cooperation, trade and investment between both industries, and to promote and obtain the necessary approvals to increase new market-access opportunities between both countries.

This landmark council is comprised of the top U.S. and Peruvian blueberry growers, packers, exporters and importing companies, such as Naturipe and Driscoll’s in California, North Bay Produce in Michigan, and Camposol, Talsa and ProArandano in Peru. Brian Bocock, vice president of product management at Naturipe and Miguel Bentin, president of ProArandano will serve as co-chairs.

The council will start its work by concentrating on mutually complementary strategies for increasing the consumption of blueberries and further enhance bilateral market-access of fresh blueberries and plants.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services and its Peruvian counterpart, SENASA, are developing new ways of improving bilateral phytosanitary measures to improve the market access of Peruvian blueberries to the U.S. and U.S. plants to Peru. The council’s first order of business will be to support the development of such phytosanitary initiatives at a bilateral level.

“The global demand for one of the most popular superfoods in the world, fresh blueberries, is increasing at an unprecedented rate, especially in the U.S., which in 2015 consumed 455 million pounds, up from 396 million pounds in 2014,” Bocock said.

“The USPBC is the first binational council of its kind for the category,” Bentin added. “It will play an instrumental role in furthering the ever-so-important bilateral relation between the U.S. and Peruvian blueberry category by supporting ways of importing and exporting blueberries and plants to and from the U.S. and Peru.”

The California Avocado Commission received notification from the California Department of Food & Agriculture that the recently completed 2015-16 referendum of California avocado growers has confirmed continuation of commission operations.

By law, for CAC operations to continue a vote is required every five years and a majority of producers voting must vote in favor of continuation. The voting results showed that 84 percent of voting producers support continuation of CAC for another five years, well above the simple majority requirement.

“The affirmation of California avocado growers for their commission clearly demonstrates the value they see in this organization,” Doug O’Hara, chairman of the commission, said in a press release. “The board and management of the commission are dedicated to fostering a vibrant California avocado industry and enhancing grower returns through effective marketing, industry affairs and production research programs. The continued influx of imported avocados into the United States presents a challenging reality for California avocado growers, and it is critical for CAC to encourage demand and bolster the premium position of California avocados.”

Mandatory assessments from producers in the state fund the commission operations and programs.

According to Tom Bellamore, CAC president, staying at the forefront of marketing creativity is key to building the California avocado brand and consumer demand.

“The commission will continue to target consumers and trade partners who demonstrate loyalty to and recognize the value of California avocados,” Bellamore said in the press release. “CAC will continue to maximize grower investment by pushing the boundaries of new marketing frontiers.”

In addition to marketing programs, the commission, composed of producer and handler members, remains at the forefront of advocating for the California avocado industry and funding research to ensure a sustainable future for the industry.

“The California avocado industry has supported the commission for nearly four decades,” Bellamore added. “With this referendum vote, we rededicate our commitment to foster a vibrant industry through the premium California avocado brand, innovative marketing and continual industry advances.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed an administrative complaint under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act against Tomato Specialties LLC, doing business as The Avocado Co. International.

The company, operating from Arizona, allegedly made false and misleading statements and failed to account truly and correctly to five sellers in connection with 41 lots of tomatoes that it purchased in interstate and foreign commerce from May 2014 to April 2015.

Tomato Specialties LLC, doing business as The Avocado Co. International, will have an opportunity to request a hearing.  Should USDA find that the company committed repeated and flagrant violations, it would be barred from the produce industry for two years.  Furthermore, its principals could not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee for one year and then only with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond.

In the past three years, the USDA resolved approximately 3,700 PACA claims involving more than $66 million. Its experts also assisted more than 7,100 callers with issues valued at approximately $100 million.

The Fresh Market Inc., a growing specialty grocery retailer, has entered into a definitive agreement whereby an affiliate of Apollo Global Management LLC, a leading global alternative investment manager, will acquire The Fresh Market for approximately $1.36 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2016

The $28.50 per share all-cash offer by the Apollo Funds represents a premium of approximately 24 percent over The Fresh Market’s closing share price on March 11, and a premium of approximately 53 percent over the Feb. 10 closing share price, the day prior to press speculation regarding a potential transaction.freshmarket

The announcement follows an open and thorough review of strategic alternatives undertaken by The Fresh Market board of directors to maximize stockholder value.  The transaction will be implemented through a cash tender offer at $28.50 per share. The transaction was unanimously approved by the board of directors of The Fresh Market, other than Ray Berry, chairman and founder of The Fresh Market, who recused himself from all board discussions related to the review and from the board vote approving the transaction. 

Ray Berry and Brett Berry, who collectively own approximately 9.8 percent of The Fresh Market’s outstanding shares, have agreed not to tender shares held by them into the tender offer and will both participate and rollover the vast majority of their holdings in the transaction with Apollo. In addition, George Golleher, with whom Apollo has had a long-term operating partner consulting relationship and who was formerly chief executive officer of Smart & Final and Ralphs Grocery Co./Food-4-Less during ownership by other Apollo affiliated funds, will be a co-investor with the Apollo funds in the transaction.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Apollo, which follows a comprehensive review of strategic and financial alternatives that generated interest from numerous parties. After an open and thorough process, our board concluded that this offer maximizes value for our stockholders,” said Rich Noll, The Fresh Market’s lead independent director.

“We are excited about this transaction with Apollo, which recognizes the value of The Fresh Market’s strong brand and significant growth prospects while providing stockholders with an immediate and substantial premium,” said Rick Anicetti, The Fresh Market’s president and CEO.  “Apollo is a highly regarded investor, bringing deep industry expertise and financial resources, and we look forward to working with them to build on our progress in achieving our strategic plan to deliver long-term profitable growth.”

“We are delighted about this transaction with The Fresh Market, which was one of the early pioneers in small-box grocery, offering unique, delicious and healthy food with a keen focus on perishables,” said Andrew S. Jhawar, senior partner and head of the retail and consumer group at Apollo. “We believe there is a significant opportunity to enhance the brand, merchandise offering and price-value combination to make The Fresh Market a primary destination for food shoppers, while at the same time being committed to social responsibility through partnerships with local vendors and communities.  Our team at Apollo has had the tremendous fortune of having executed transactions in several consumables retailers and brands — such as Sprouts Farmers Market, Smart & Final, Hostess Brands and General Nutrition Centers, among others — that have undergone significant transformations under our strategic guidance and we intend to bring that experience to bear at The Fresh Market. We look forward to partnering with Ray Berry, Brett Berry and George Golleher, and beginning our discussions with the executive management team and the over 13,000 team members at The Fresh Market so that we can assist the company in delivering the most inspiring and engaging food shopping experience in the industry with best-in-class customer service.”

Under the terms of the merger agreement, the company may actively solicit alternative acquisition proposals during a 21-day period following the execution date of the definitive agreement, continuing until midnight on April 1. There can be no assurances that this process will result in a superior proposal, and The Fresh Market does not intend to discuss any developments with regard to this process unless and until the company's board of directors makes a decision with respect to any potential superior proposal.