IFG Cotton Candy grapes

Cotton Candy grapes, one of IFG's premium varieties Image: IFG

Global fresh food specialist AM Fresh has announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire California-based International Fruit Genetics (IFG).

The transaction will see IFG merged with table grape breeding and development group SNFL, creating a combined company that 'significantly advances SNFL’s and IFG’s abilities to further develop their breeding capacities and add to their innovative portfolio to address unprecedented industry demand'.

AM Fresh will be the controlling shareholder of the combined entity, with significant minority investment from EQT Future and investment from Paine Schwartz Partners.

The transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions, while specific financial terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Benefits across the board

According to a statement, the combined company will accelerate varietal breeding, development and commercialisation, benefiting licensed growers, partners and consumers with more sustainable alternatives and improved varietal options.

AM Fresh, SNFL and IFG will aim to propel innovation at large, ease production management for growers and facilitate commercialisation to retail partners in order to deliver innovative varieties to consumers on a year-round basis.

“We are committed to delivering fresh, natural and healthy goods to excite consumers and we strive to create the next frontier of sustainable fresh foods for the benefit of all,” said Alvaro Muñoz, AM Fresh Group CEO.

“Together with IFG, we will spearhead varietal innovation and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of innovative varieties which are nature and health positive benefiting growers, our retail partners and consumers,' Muñoz explained. 'Through our combined R&D, innovation, agritech capabilities and high-quality standards, we are able to offer fresh propositions to our partners and together propel the table grape industry to the next level.”

Complementary gene pools

The transaction represents a huge advancement for the entire industry, according to IFG chief executive Andy Higgins.

“Since our establishment, IFG’s mission, our challenge and our inspiration has been to grow our fruit categories, and this merger is another example of this,' he said. 'SNFL and IFG have complementary gene pools and breeding teams focused on different development pathways.

'While much of IFG’s focus has been on consumer traits and flavour, SNFL’s focus has been centered on health benefits, diseases tolerance and other important grower traits,' Higgins continued. 'Together, AM Fresh Group, SNFL and IFG will provide more variety choices to consumers, more industry solutions for growers, and an accelerated pace of innovation for the fruit breeding industry.

'This acquisition will bring forward the best that our companies have to offer as we build a dynamic foundation for the future.

“IFG set out 20 years ago to change an industry,' he noted. 'This combination of businesses is a ‘marriage of the minds’ as both AM Fresh Group and Sunridge Nurseries began as small family businesses working toward building something better in the fruit breeding industry,” he added.

“The type of ‘start-up spirit’ that propelled both of these companies to their current level of success is still thriving, as is our mutual commitment to meet the needs of our employees, licensees, partners and consumers.”

Increased breeding possibilities

Retailers and consumers will equally benefit through the sophistication and development of the table grape category, AM Fresh said, with SNFL’s and IFG’s combined efforts striving to increase the offer and possibilities of breeding differentiation.

“By combining two breeding teams with profound and very diverse experience in different fields of plant genetics we will seek to propel varieties which will be a better fit for the future and will fast-track the development of more sustainable and healthier varieties aligned with the market trends,” said Josep Estiarte, managing director SNFL Group.

“In addition, the integration of two different pools of talent developed over more than 15 years enables the implementation of best practices into the plant varietal development process.”

AM Fresh had made 'substantial progress' expanding SNFL’s capabilities and offerings since the former's initial investment in 2019, Paine Schwartz CEO Kevin Schwartz confirmed.

'This transaction is an important next step in the company’s evolution,” he explained. “We continue to believe in the significant value creation opportunities that innovators like SNFL and IFG bring to the specialty produce sector.

'We are confident that the combined SNFL and IFG platform will have the necessary resources to deliver sustainable and healthier offerings that benefit growers, retailers and consumers alike,' Schwartz added. 'Looking ahead, we are excited to support the next generation of varietal innovation in grapes and cherries under AM Fresh’s leadership.”