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Ready Pac Buys Salad Maker

Owners of Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle get stock as payment for their Salad Time unit.

August 20, 2004|Jerry Hirsch | Times Staff Writer

More than three decades ago, produce man Dennis Gertmenian purchased a bathtub, a butcher block, a couple of knives and some plastic bags so he could quickly fill an order for pre-cut salads from one of his family-owned company's biggest clients.

It was the start of a business that Gertmenian, chairman of Irwindale-based Ready Pac Produce Inc., continues to build. Earlier this month, Ready Pac acquired Tanimura & Antle Inc.'s Salad Time unit, a packaged-salad maker with $220 million in annual sales. Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle is one of the largest vegetable growers in the nation.

It is a food category that is growing rapidly as shoppers are increasingly pressed for time in the kitchen.

U.S. supermarket sales of fresh-cut salad in the first quarter of 2004 totaled 175 million pounds, 5% more than the same period a year earlier, according to the Food Institute in Elmwood Park, N.J. The dollar value of sales was $546.7 million, up 4%.

The transaction will solidify Ready Pac's business in the fresh-cut salad business and secures the business of a key supplier in Tanimura & Antle for years to come, Gertmenian said.

Ready Pac will have about $1 billion a year in sales of fresh-cut produce and fruit, he said. That includes its business supplying cut salads and produce for food-service companies and restaurant chains such as McDonald's.

Most of the financial terms of the transaction weren't disclosed by the closely held companies. Gertmenian, who is the sole owner of Ready Pac, said he traded stock in his company to the owners of Tanimura & Antle.

Rick Antle, Tanimura & Antle's chief executive, will become the sixth member of Ready Pac's board of directors.

The executive expected only scattered layoffs among the combined companies' 4,000 employees, mostly among sales personnel.

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