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Progressive acquires Mission's asparagus business

Progressive Produce Corp. in Los Angeles and Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, jointly announced that Progressive has acquired Mission's asparagus business.

The deal, which involves supplies from Mexico and includes the servicing of Mission's customers, is effective immediately and significantly increases Progressive's presence in fresh asparagus.

In a joint press release, Mission Produce, which is one of the world's larger avocado growers and marketers, cited its intent to focus on the expanding avocado business as the reason the firm decided to divest its asparagus business.  

"Our asparagus growers and customers are too important for us to leave this business without a plan to turn it over to a first-class operation that shares our values of honoring commitments and great customer service," Steve Barnard, president of Mission, said in the press release. "We sought out Progressive as the company we wanted to transition it to from the very start, and were glad they were interested."

Mission has been representing asparagus from Mexico for the past eight years.

Progressive, which has a long history in the Los Angeles produce industry dating back almost half a century, was primarily a potato and onion grower and marketer until about a dozen years ago, when it started expanding into other commodities.

In the middle of the last decade, Progressive entered into a partnership with Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc. in Greencastle, PA, to cooperatively source and market asparagus. The collaboration also includes the marketing of sweet onions.

"We had a plan to increase our acres every year in order to be a solid year-round grower in this commodity when we began our program," Jim Leimkuhler, president of Progressive, said in the press release. "The addition of Mission's excellent growers will accelerate that plan and we are excited about it."

Jack Gyben, vice president of marketing for Progressive and a partner in the firm, told The Produce News that while Progressive was already a year-round shipper of asparagus, "This dramatically increases our acreage and production and gives us a more consistent year-round supply."

In partnership with Keystone, Progressive imports asparagus from Peru and also has production in Mexico, California and Washington. Gyben said the additional Mexican supplies boosts Progressive production at some specific opportune times of the year, including currently. Progressive is currently shipping some of that new production in both the "Mission" label and its own "Americas" label.

Like Progressive, Mission had both a bulk and a value-added program for its Mexican asparagus that Progressive is continuing.

"Progressive sought us out and we were delighted to get that call," Gyben said. "Prior to completing the deal, we discussed the situation with their growers in Mexico as well as with their customers and are very happy to be working with all of them."