Dole Terminates Fresh Express Deal under Antitrust Pressure from Justice Dept.

Dole Terminates Fresh Express Deal under Antitrust Pressure from Justice Dept.

Global fresh produce marketer Dole plc terminated its agreement to sell its Fresh Vegetable Division to Fresh Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chiquita Holdings Limited (Chiquita).

In a release Thursday morning, the company said the decision resulted from the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to pursue litigation to prevent the transaction. 

The DOJ said Thursday that it had concerns about the deal’s impact on competition in the packaged salad market.

“At a time when food companies are already overcharging Americans for groceries, today’s abandonment preserves lower prices and availability for an essential kitchen staple,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Antitrust Division in a statement.

“This merger would have reduced the number of competitors from three to two and raised grocery prices for food products that are purchased by 85% of American households. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of the Antitrust Division’s lawyers, economists, paralegals, and professional staff who made this result possible.”

In January 2023, the company announced a ‘definitive agreement’ to sell the division for gross proceeds of approximately US$293 million, subject to certain adjustments.

At the time, they said the transaction was subject to regulatory approval and the parties expected the transaction would close after obtaining approval.

This morning, the company put out the following statement regarding the announcement:

“While Dole strongly disagrees with the Department of Justice’s decision and continues to believe that the transaction was pro-competitive and would have unlocked ongoing benefits to customers and consumers, we remain confident that we will have an alternative path forward in the near term that is in the best interests of the Fresh Vegetables Division’s employees, customers, and partners, and the Dole plc shareholders.”

The company’s executive chairman Carl McCann previously said the deal with Fresh Express would improve their offering and service to customers and consumers through increased investments in innovation, efficiencies, and food safety.