by SUSAN MANN
One of North America’s largest olive packers and a pickle maker, Whyte’s Food Corp. Inc., has bought the assets and business operations of Brantford-based Strubs Food Corp. for an undisclosed sum.
The completion of the sale was announced Wednesday by BDO Canada LLP on its website. BDO is the trustee for Strubs as it works through the process to restructure its affairs. Strubs filed a notice April 27 announcing it was restructuring and told Ontario cucumber and hot pepper growers May 1 that it wasn’t buying any of their products this year.
For Ontario growers, it isn’t clear what effect the sale of Strubs to Whyte’s will have. Al Krueger, executive assistant for the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, says they don’t know what Whyte’s plans are for the Brantford facility. “We’re hearing they may operate it for awhile this summer.”
But the Processing Vegetable Growers organization doesn’t know if Whyte’s has a long-term plan to operate the facility, he says. If it does then that would be good news for growers.
Whyte’s wasn’t available for comment.
Eugene Migus, BDO partner, says they aren’t disclosing the purchase price. Whyte’s was one of 13 potential buyers mostly from Canada with a few from the United States that had submitted offers for Strubs. In documents filed on its website, BDO says Whyte’s submitted the highest offer.
In a June 20 letter posted on its website announcing the completion of the sale, BDO says Whyte’s has been in business for more than 100 years and has operated under its present ownership since 1975. In addition to being one of North America’s largest olive packers, Whyte’s is a significant international processor of maraschino cherries and a manufacturer of ready-to-use sauces. The company produces refrigerated pickles under the Mrs. Whyte’s brand. The company is also a leading importer of fine food products, such as Dijon mustard, escargots, capers, olive oils, specialty olives, artichokes, anchovies, peppercorns, balsamic vinegar, canned vegetables, frozen pastries and breads.
According to its website, Whyte’s has two processing facilities as well as warehouses and sales offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
For this year, Whyte’s isn’t contracting with Ontario growers. Krueger says it’s too late to contract with growers this year because the cucumbers are already in the ground and they’re growing. “They’ll probably end up getting their cucumbers through Hartung.” Hartung Brothers Incorporated of Madison, Wisconsin is a licensed greenshipper. It’s a buyer of cucumbers in Ontario for processing but it’s not a processor.
Staffordville-area cucumber and hot pepper grower Fred Froese says overall he gets “a really positive vibe” from the sale. Whyte’s has been in the business of cucumbers and peppers for a really long time, he says, adding he hopes they have good intentions of maintaining the Strubs brand and quality.
As for the $69,000 Froese is owed for grading work for Strubs, he doesn’t expect to recover any money. “It’s gone.”
Froese says he managed to contract 400 tons of hot banana peppers of the 825 tons that he had originally contracted to Strubs to a buyer in the United States. But he had to dump the remaining 425 tons of product. “The really crappy part in all of this is now that Mrs. Whyte’s is packing they’re going to be looking for hot banana peppers,” he says.
Accounts receivable were acquired by Whyte’s under the sale and customers may send their payments to Whyte’s, BDO says in the June 20 letter to customers and suppliers. But it’s a different story for suppliers. Whyte’s didn’t assume the trade liabilities of Strubs, and Strubs has requested and received a court order extending the current stay of proceedings that’s in effect. The deadline for filing a proposal is July 12. BF