SC industry

McCall Farms adds canning line

Florence Morning NewsDecember 14, 2013 

— Every day the Swink brothers head from their office to the family’s nearby home to eat lunch where at least two of more than 40 different vegetable products processed by their company can be found on the table.

Now sweet potatoes will join that lineup.

McCall Farms’ acquisition of Bruce Foods’ sweet potato line, announced Thursday, is part of a $19.3 million investment for the growing food processor and will generate 140 new jobs over the next five years at the plant.

Marion Swink and his brother, Henry, are co-owners of the operation and farms that have been in the family since 1838, and said the acquisition and expansion will continue to broaden the company’s holdings in the growing food processing sector that is part of the state’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry.

“The acquisition of the Bruce’s brand is an exciting addition to our growing company,” Marion said in a statement. “Bruce Foods is a family-owned company that has shared our similar values, and their Southern-style vegetables are the perfect addition to the McCall Farms’ product line.”

New Iberia, La.-based Bruce Foods is one of the country’s largest privately owned food manufacturers with brands including Bruce’s Yams, Bruce’s Products, Cajun Injector, Cajun King, Casa Fiesta, Louisiana Hot Sauce, Louisiana Gold, Mexene Chili and Louisiana Wing Sauce.

With the acquisition of the line, McCall Farms will now take ownership of two Bruce plants and hopes to be canning the well-known Bruce’s Yams line at McCall headquarters in Effingham by the tater harvest next year.

Henry Swink said Bruce Foods was looking to sell its yams line and focus on other products, providing an opportunity for McCall Farms to acquire the line instead of trying to establish a line of sweet potato products – the only Southern vegetable that was lacking from the company’s products.

“We started thinking about sweet potatoes about a year ago and were going to try and get into the market with our own brand,” Swink said. “And it’s so much easier to get into the market with an established brand, so this brand became available, No. 1 sweet potato brand in the country.”

The $19.3 million cost includes two of Bruce’s plants, equipment, the line and the brand itself. Work already is underway on site to accommodate that new line. Bruce’s Yams use the tender part of the sweet potato called the sweetheart. Other products included in the acquisition are white potatoes, okra, squash, greens and carrots.

This acquisition and expansion is part of a string of activity the company has undertaken since acquiring Holmes Canning Company in 1985 and the Margaret Holmes brand. From there, it acquired Glory Foods in 2010, expanding operations with a 150,000-square-foot shipping house and 65 jobs at the plant. In July 2012 additional investment of $10.6 million increased production lines and created a 24/7 operation schedule.

In addition to the canning operations, 15 percent of the company’s business involves frozen foods.

State Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said this announcement continues the growth of the agribusiness sector, which has seen $260 million in capital investment and 1,625 jobs since January 2011.

“McCall Farms is one our great farm families in South Carolina as well as a great Certified SC Grown member,” Weathers said in a statement. “I am pleased to see the company’s latest expansion, which is proof that South Carolina agribusiness has the power to grow both the economy and jobs.”

McCall Farms cans and distributes produce grown on the family farm and 25,000 acres contracted from farmers in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

Just because its Southern vegetable food pyramid is complete, doesn’t mean the company won’t keep growing, Henry said.

“If another opportunity comes about, we’ll absolutely look into that too. We’re always looking.”

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