Salinas-based grower Taylor Farms has acquired Earthbound Farm from French multinational foods giant Danone for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition returns Earthbound Farm, based in San Juan Bautista, to local ownership effective April 11.
Earthbound Farm is the largest grower of organic produce in the country and was one of the first farms to pioneer organically grown fruits and vegetables. Founded by Drew and Myra Goodman in Carmel Valley in 1984, Earthbound Farm grew at a feverish pace, becoming one of the first companies to sell pre-packaged salads in grocery stores—a staple of today’s vegetable-loving consumer.
At a recent Monterey Bay Economic Partnership summit where he was honored, Bruce Taylor, CEO of Taylor Farms, warned the audience that large US produce companies are being bought by other countries and that Americans need to keep control of their food. “I just bought one back,” he told them, referring to the French Danone.
According to a recent news release, “Earthbound Farm will join the Taylor Farms Retail Group and help lead growth in the dynamic organic fresh produce category.” Taylor Farms, a mainstay of pre-packaged salads and produce, claims it is the world’s largest producer of fresh-cut vegetables and supplies many major supermarket chains across North America. They intend to “build on Earthbound Farm’s tradition of organic authenticity, new variety development and quality focus.”
Taylor and Earthbound define an organic product as one that is “grown with cultural, biological and mechanical practices that promote ecological balance, conserve biodiversity and avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and GMOs.”
HM Capital Partners purchased Earthbound Farm in 2009, an investment that led to the launching of a line of 14 frozen fruit and vegetable products. Soon after, Earthbound was purchased by WhiteWave Foods, a consumer packaged food and beverage company. Danone acquired WhiteWave in 2017. At its peak, Earthbound employed over 1,300 people and was the largest employer in San Benito County. Current employment numbers were not disclosed.
While Taylor Farms has not released how the acquisition will affect employment numbers, Earthbound Farm will continue operations in San Juan Bautista and there are plans to eliminate some administrative positions there and in a Colorado office. But with Earthbound’s current growth projections, Taylor anticipates adding jobs next spring once operations have been integrated.
The purchase does not affect Earthbound’s Farm Stand (located at 7250 Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley), which will remain open seven days a week and anticipates adding to its existing food, beverage and entertainment offerings.