LAKE WALES, Fla. – The 81st Annual Stockholders Meeting of Florida’s Natural Growers was held at the Lake Wales Country Club on Monday, the 10th of November. During his opening remarks, Chairman Dennis Broadaway commented, “As we look toward the future, your Board and Management Staff recognize that these are tough times for the Florida citrus grower and that there are many challenges that lie ahead. The Florida’s Natural team has demonstrated success in the face of adversity, and are confident a strategic plan is in place today that will assure the sustainable success of Florida’s Natural Growers for the future.”
Chip Hendry, Chief Financial Officer, reported that, “The 2013/14 season may well be remembered for the number of records broken.” The CFO highlighted the strength of the balance sheet for the Cooperative as well as the Tree Planting Initiative, providing $10 million in support for grower-members replanting their citrus trees to prepare for the future. Hendry announced the Indicated Pool Returns for 2013-14 as $1.76 for Grapefruit and Orange at $1.85 and $2.10 for Early/Mids and Valencias, respectively. Both returns compare favorably to industry averages based on early indications. “These are the highest Orange returns ever generated by your cooperative,” concluded Hendry.
Steve Caruso, the Cooperative’s Chief Executive Officer, opened describing the changing environment of the Florida citrus industry and Florida’s Natural Growers’ commitment to adapting with lower costs and innovations, like the recently announced tree planting initiative. Caruso shared that “the PIP was a preferred option to expand our fruit base, because it leverages the strengths of our balance sheet with the production capability of our grower-members.”
Chris Groom, Vice President of Sales & Marketing introduced the new agency, Merkley and Partners, and a new advertising campaign that focuses on the cooperative message and great taste. Groom also highlighted an integrated media plan that will include national TV, digital and social media. “Overall, we are spending roughly the same as last year, but we’ll have a lot more media running across all channels.” Mr. Groom shared the new advertising spots and highlighted two key new product launches for the Cooperative, a reduced-calorie orange juice that utilizes only Valencia oranges for the juice component and an enhanced water product line for Away from Home applications.
Commissioner of Agriculture and grower-member Adam Putnam spoke to the group during the meeting. Putnam’s outlook and views on the recent election as well as the future of Florida and the role agriculture plays in it were enjoyed by the audience. The Commissioner of Agriculture’s outlook was positive regarding the work currently being done to fight citrus greening as well as water management issues for the State. Putnam congratulated the Florida’s Natural Growers team for their performance the past year.
Chairman Dennis Broadaway announced that, as part as the Cooperative’s succession plan, Steve Caruso plans to retire in 2015. Dr. Robert M. Behr, the current Chief Operating Officer, was elected the incoming Chief Executive Officer effective at the time of Caruso’s retirement. Caruso has served as the CEO since 1993 and is best known for the performance of the Florida’s Natural® Brand as well as championing the Cooperative’s culture based on core values and integrity. Under his leadership, the Cooperative has been named one of Polk County’s Best Places to Work, an award voted upon by employees, for many years.
Two new Directors were elected to the Citrus World Board during the Shareholders’ Meeting. The two are: V. C. Hollingsworth, representing Citrus Marketing Services, Inc., and Richard C. Goodman, representing Winter Haven CGA.
Following the meeting, the Board of Directors met and elected the officers for the upcoming year. Re-elected as President and Chairman was Dennis P. Broadaway, Frank M. Hunt, III, Vice Chairman & First Vice President, Stephen M. Caruso, Chief Executive Officer and Executive V.P., William J. Hendry, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary, Christopher W. Groom, V.P. Sales & Marketing, Dr. Robert M. Behr, Chief Operations Officer, L. Davis Crumbly, V.P. of Agricultural Services, and Charles T. Matthews, V.P. of Operations. Florida’s Natural Members include Ben Hill Griffin, Inc., Citrus Marketing Services, Dundee CGA, Haines City CGA, Hunt Bros. Cooperative, Lake Placid Citrus Cooperative, Lake Wales CGA, Orange Growers Marketing Association, Peace River Packing Company, Southern Gardens Grove Corporation, Umatilla CGA, Waverly Growers Cooperative and Winter Haven CGA.
About Florida’s Natural Growers
First formed in 1933, Florida’s Natural Growers is a cooperative of fourteen grower organizations representing nearly 1,000 individual growers owning almost 60,000 acres of citrus in Florida. Its flagship brand, not from concentrate Florida’s Natural® Brand, is sold throughout the US and in more than 40 countries throughout the world. The Cooperative is headquartered in Lake Wales, Florida and operates plants there and in Umatilla, Florida.