Unifrutti, a leader in fresh fruit production and distribution is to acquire 100% of Sociedad Exportadora Verfrut, a major fruit producer, processor, and exporter in South America. The cost of the purchase was not disclosed.

The deal – subject to satisfactory closing conditions including regulatory approvals – is an important step in expanding Unifrutti’s integrated global multi-fruit platform. By adding Verfrut, the acquirer automatically becomes a major fruit company in Chile, one of the largest production and processing centres for grapes and cherries globally. It is also a leading apple player in the southern hemisphere. In Chile, Verfrut has more than 3,300 hectares of orchards.

Unifrutti will become a big player in the cherry business in South America.

The acquisition also extends Unifrutti’s reach into Peru, a big hub in the fresh produce sector where Verfrut is the largest grape grower in the country and controls more than 2,800 hectares of productive land. At the same time, the deal adds a strong table grape and cherry platform to Unifrutti’s existing fruit basket.

Over 200,000 tons of fruit

In total, Unifrutti will take over more than 7,500 hectares of fully integrated farming and processing facilities. Verfrut grows a wide array of crops, including grapes, cherries, apples, and blueberries, and is renowned as the largest exporter of grapes in Peru. It has an established commercial and distribution network in the United States, the European Union, South America, and also China.

Verfrut was established in 1996 by Romano Vercellino Dellafiori, as a small grower in central Chile but has quickly grown grown in size. In the 2021/22 season, the company exported more than 14 million cases of fruit equivalent to over 140,000 tons. In the next two years, Verfrut says it will export over 210,000 tons from its own orchards “with a projection of over 25 million boxes in the coming years” although it did not say exactly when that would be.

The company has a diversified product range including grapes, cherries, stone fruits, apples, and others, with a good geographical commercial reach. After the acquisition fully closes, Unifrutti said it would “maintain Verfrut’s global operations” to ensure business continuity.

The acquisition meets Unifrutti’s objective to serve the increasing global demand for high-quality fruits and also reinforces its leadership in the fruit market worldwide. In addition, the acquisition extends access to a wider range of premium produce for the group’s customers.

A milestone deal

Emphasising the strategic significance of the deal, Mohamed Elsarky, Group CEO of Unifrutti, said: “The acquisition of Verfrut is a milestone, propelling Unifrutti’s growth and reinforcing our commitment to innovation. This expansion not only enhances our current operations but also paves the way for future growth, as we aim to become the pre-eminent and most sustainably driven global multi-fruit company.”

The CEO, who is a recent appointment, said that the scale-up from the deal would allow Unifrutti to set new standards in the industry. He added: “This transaction also resonates deeply with our shared family-owned heritage, and we are humbled and privileged to be entrusted with Verfrut’s 30-year legacy, collaboratively forging a regional champion in Chile and Peru.”

Elsarky,: “The acquisition of Verfrut is a milestone, propelling Unifrutti’s growth and reinforcing our commitment to innovation.”

Romano Vercellino, founder and president of Verfrut, commented: “Verfrut is our life. After many years of hard work together with our great team, we are confident that Unifrutti will maintain the values that have guided us since the establishment of the company.”

A new CEO to drive growth

Elsarky was appointed as Group CEO of Unifrutti in mid-November 2023, based in Unifrutti’s global headquarters in Abu Dhabi. He replaced the interim CEO, Simon Bevan, who remains a member of the board. At the time, Gil Adotevi, chairman of the board of directors of Unifrutti commented that the group was “embarking on an exciting new chapter of growth” and the Verfrut deal looks to be a first step.

It seems that Elsarky has been well placed to lead the growth. Over the past 20 years, he has held senior leadership roles across a number of global businesses including CEO of Kellogg Australia and New Zealand; president of Danone Group’s United Biscuits; president of Pladis Biscuits North America, chairman and CEO of Artisan du Chocolat, and president and CEO of Godiva Chocolatier, where he oversaw a global expansion of Godiva to over 100 countries.

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