Dec 1, 2023Blue Diamond Growers annual meeting highlights resilience
At the 113th Blue Diamond Growers “Growing Together” Annual Meeting on Nov. 15 in Modesto, Kai Bockmann, CEO for Blue Diamond Growers, reflected on his first ten months in the leadership role by acknowledging significant challenges faced by growers and the world’s largest almond cooperative.
In Bockmann’s remarks, along with those of Blue Diamond Growers’ Board Chairman, Dan Cummings, pointed to remarkable headwinds for the almond industry, including higher input costs and inflationary pressures, depressed market prices, shifts in consumer shopping patterns, unfavorable weather conductions, and reduced crop sizes. To help counter these challenges, Blue Diamond Growers is advancing an aggressive strategic growth plan to navigate the marketplace conditions and drive substantial growth.
“Volatility is our new normal, but our destination is set – and it is one of growth,” said Bockmann. “While this past year brought many challenges for our growers, no challenge is insurmountable. We have a rich history, an exceptional brand, and the right people and culture to deliver against our ambitious growth plan.”
In laying out the plan, Bockmann shared with the annual meeting audience that what has helped bring the cooperative to where it is today, will not get it to where it is going in terms of growth and market expansion. The new growth plan prioritizes expansion into the massive foodservice channel and strategically selected international markets, while strengthening the value-added business, doubling down on product innovation, and driving for operational efficiencies.
“Foodservice is a trillion dollar industry that represents a significant growth opportunity for Blue Diamond, and we will directly target that sector as a strategic priority,” said Bockmann. “Additionally, we will diversify and innovate our product portfolio beyond our flagship Blue Diamond Snack Almonds and Almond Breeze brands. We will build on the tremendous success of these products, which are both the #1 brands in America for almonds and almondmilk.”
Bockmann shared that flavor-focused product innovation remains a top priority commenting that “no one does flavor like Blue Diamond” as evidenced by the widely popular Chilé N Lime flavored snack nuts. The flavor was launched as a limited time offer at Costco and won the “Best Nuts” award in PEOPLE Magazine’s 2023 Food Awards.
Research and development
The Blue Diamond Research & Development (R&D) team will continue to innovate with new flavors, while advancing new and existing categories, including plant-based yogurt, chocolate, baking, beverages and plant-based cheese. On the foodservice front, the strategic growth plan focus is already delivering results.
The Blue Diamond International Consumer and R&D teams worked closely with Maeil Dairies in the past year to develop Almond Breeze Barista Blend, which was introduced in 6,500 Starbucks across China earlier this year.
“I’m confident that Blue Diamond Growers is poised to thrive in the years to come because we are stronger together,” said Bockmann. “We are excited to grow together as we bring our strategic plan and collective vision to life.”
Supporting grower success
In addition to tackling the marketplace challenges with strategy, innovation, and expansion, Blue Diamond Growers also concepted and launched a new grower-focused buying coalition. To help connect growers with trusted, well-known suppliers and build local, long-term relationships, the Blue Diamond Growers Connect Marketplace aims to reduce production costs for farmers by negotiating better discounts with suppliers via Group Purchasing Organizations and the co-ops’ own internal platform. The goal of the marketplace is to reduce growers’ costs by 5-15%.
Additionally, a notable highlight from the year is Blue Diamond Growers’ advancement in sustainability. To continue growing the cooperative’s commitment to stewardship, Blue Diamond’s Member Relations team held several online webinars, including hosting the Almond Board of California Almond Stewardship Platform and the Pollinator Partnership to discuss and educate growers on Bee-Friendly Farming.
Along with the offered webinars, growers were encouraged to participate in Blue Diamond’s Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program (OSIP), a program where growers can earn financial incentives for implementing best practices related to orchard management, environmental issues, occupational health and safety, and community investment.
In July of this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Blue Diamond a five-year, $45 million “Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities” grant, a program designed to help farmers implement “climate-smart” practices on their land. The program offers growers no-cost cover crop seed and a financial incentive to plant cover crops and/or conservation cover on their land. These practices not only work toward taking carbon out of the atmosphere, but they also enhance orchard biodiversity and improve soil health. The USDA grant complements Blue Diamond’s OSIP by lowering the cost of initiating the pollinator-friendly practices required to receive Bee-Friendly Farming certification.
“Without question it has been a challenging year, but the loyalty and leadership demonstrated by our board – combined with the resilence of our growers and dedication of Blue Diamond employees – will allow us to overcome the challenges together,” said Cummings. “I’m confident Blue Diamond will deliver great prosperity and a sustainable future for our growers, employees, their families, and the communities we call home.”
Blue Diamond Annual Report
In conjunction with the Annual Meeting, the Blue Diamond Growers 2023 “Growing Together” Annual Report is now available on the Blue Diamond website at bluediamond.com.