US – Tropicana Brand Group, an American multinational fruit-based beverages company, plans to close its Fort Pierce plant because of a shortage of oranges, which is its main raw material.

In a letter to the state of Florida, the orange juice giant blamed “unforeseen business circumstances” for the closure, which in all likelihood will be permanent.

According to the letter: “Because of a decline in the number of boxes of oranges available across Florida given the upcoming crop, as well as future crop projections, the plant at 6500 Glades Cut Off Road, will close.”

“Given these unfortunate and unforeseen business circumstances, the future of the fruit processing operations at the Fort Pierce plant is highly uncertain, and this closure is expected to be permanent.”

That means, the company’s all fruit processing units including citrus operations, feed mill, and fruit maintenance operations will be affected.

The letter was sent to meet federally mandated Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act requirements.

The Bradenton-based company said the affected employees were laid off on July 15, and the plant is scheduled to close in September.

However, spokeswoman Hannah Donohue in a statement contradicted the letter sent to the state, in which she said the facility will remain open “and part of the company’s manufacturing footprint.”

She added: “We will not be processing fruit there for the 2023 season and are consolidating that work to our Bradenton plant. “

Unfortunately, there is a small portion of our full-time team who will be impacted by this change and we are committed to offering them support in finding other work, whether within our existing operations or elsewhere.”

Donohue noted that the letter to the state will be updated in the next couple of days but was unable to immediately provide details of what would be changed.

Tropicana Brand Group is the new name of the entity that beverage giant PepsiCo, which had owned Tropicana for years, sold to the private equity firm PAI Partners in 2021.

The sale of Tropicana and other juice brands across North America was in a US$3.3 billion deal.

The food and beverage giant also received a 39% stake in a newly formed joint venture with PAI and the exclusive US distribution rights for the juice brands for certain channels, like food service.

In 2020, the Tropicana brands involved in the deal, generated about US$3 billion out of US$70.37 billion net sales that PepsiCo reported, trailing in the company’s overall operating margin.

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