Japanese company acquires local food processor Berry Noir
While Newberg-area food processer Berry Noir is still pumping out the same fruit and vegetable-based compotes, syrups, juices and jams it always has, it is now doing so for a Japanese corporation under an acquisition deal signed in April.
Although company leaders are keeping the cost of the deal private and did not make themselves available for comment, Nagano, Japan-based St. Cousair Co. is expecting Berry Noir's assets — including its 26,000-square-foot factory on Highway 219 south of Newberg — will net an annual profit of $10 million in three years, according to a press release.
Naoki Kuze, CEO of newly established U.S.-based corporation St. Cousair Oregon Orchards Inc. (SCOO), explained in the release that the acquisition comes as the Japanese company's retail outlets are growing while its own manufacturing capacity was maxing out with that increased demand.
"This acquisition in the U.S., however, has solved this issue without investing in a new facility in Japan, which would have cost more," Kuze says. "Producing quality food from the best of the rich resources of Oregon will bring tremendous benefits to customers in both the U.S. and Japanese markets."
Kuze responded to an email sent to Charles Cox, a company executive and former Newberg mayor. Kuze did not comment on whether any Berry Noir employees would lose their jobs as a result of the acquisition.
The release also does not specifically address that question, but it states "the employees of Berry Noir, well experienced in food manufacturing, understand the value of St. Cousair's principles, and they have agreed to work for SCOO." The release also tallies the local plant's staff at 22, including the CEO, three vice presidents, three staff from Japan, three office staff members and 12 line staff members.
The facility reportedly began production under St. Cousair in the first week of May.
About the two companies
Founded in 1982 as Wilhelm Foods, Berry Noir has gradually been growing since then, according to its website, jumping between ever larger facilities to its current facility.
The company specifically has made and packed a variety of fruit and vegetables products for other companies under private labels, including grocery chains New Seasons, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Pier 1 Imports, according to its website.
St. Cousair is based in the town of Iizuna – located in the Nagano Prefecture northwest of Tokyo – where it also operates a vineyard and winery under the same name. In addition to producing fruit and vegetable-based products, the company operates more than 100 specialty stores under the brands "St. Cousair" and "Kuze Fuku & Co.," according to the release.
After six months of negotiation reportedly facilitated by Business Oregon and Japan's consular office in Portland, St. Cousair executives signed the acquisition deal on April 28 and spent several days in Newberg.
The Berry Noir facility will continue private label production while also giving St. Cousair a foothold for its own products in the U.S. and global markets, the release states.
"Our vision is to provide exposure of our company's brand concept, 'Country Comfort,' to every household around the world," Kuze states in the release. "We want to take our first step in Oregon, where the environment is very similar to our homeland of Nagano Prefecture. I believe this place will be a bridge between the U.S. and Japan."
He goes on to list goals of expanding other brands into new markets while also exporting to Oregon products, including wine and beer, to Japanese stores.
In addition to the factory, the deal also includes 30 acres of farmland similar to a "St. Cousair Forest" the company acquired in 2013. The release hints at St. Cousair possibly using the land for something similar to its winery in Japan.
"Our vision is to create a place for families to gather to enjoy shopping and dining, as people currently do at St. Cousair Winery in Iizuna, Nagano," the release states.