Blue Diamond President to Retire End of 2010

Jan 18, 2010, 11:00 ET from Blue Diamond Growers

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- After serving ten years as President and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Diamond Growers, Doug Youngdahl will retire at the end of the cooperative's Centennial year in 2010.


In a letter to over half of California's almond growers who own the cooperative, Youngdahl reflected, "I'm proud of the results achieved by your Blue Diamond team during the past decade.  It is a privilege to have had stewardship over a team that has demonstrated an ever-increasing talent and desire to succeed in support of our growers."

Youngdahl is credited for his market leadership that brought confidence and optimism to an almond industry that was undervaluing the crop as its size continued to more than double over the last decade.  His mantra became, "As almond supply becomes available, global consumption will readily follow."

Indeed it did as a comparison of Blue Diamond's annual reports in 2009 versus 2001 illustrate, net sales and other revenue nearly doubled in 2009 to $709 million while payments and allocations to growers more than doubled from 2001.

Industry-leading returns are partly attributed to a streamlined operation with cost reductions and improved efficiencies throughout.  Last fiscal year, company equity reached a record high of $126 million and retained grower earnings used to finance the cooperative were at 3 1/2 % compared to the prior decade at 6%.  Payments to growers have also been accelerated.

A stellar performance by Blue Diamond's Consumer Retail and Natural Food Business that introduced innovative almond products and extended existing product lines in newly targeted markets is also credited for adding to the cooperative's grower return on investment.  Between 2002 and 2009, these sales alone resulted in a 600 percent increase.

Industrial and export sales also broke all previous shipment records as 2008 crop industry figures indicate a 115 percent increase in sales to China, a 51 percent jump in the Middle East and a 19 percent leap in India.  Blue Diamond's current 2009 crop sales continue to push records in the retail, industrial and export markets.

Other highlights of the last decade include the implementation of an aggressive pasteurization program, installation of new technologies in plant operations and customized information systems for growers, sales teams and others to increase profitability.

According to Blue Diamond Chairman of the Board Clinton Shick, a grower from McFarland, "While Blue Diamond has excellent internal candidates, the board will fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to conduct an extensive executive search.  An announcement will be made once the board completes its thorough search before the November annual meeting."

"We are in an envious position of being able to continue to build upon our hard-earned strengths and opportunities," Shick told a group of liaison committee growers.  "Your board and management team has worked together over the last decade making strategically significant decisions for competing in a dynamic food industry.  We will now begin a search for a candidate who will take our 100-year old cooperative to an even higher level of achievements over the next decade."

In his letter to members, President and CEO Youngdahl concluded saying, "Consistent with my commitment to you, our employees and our customers, I will not leave my post until the Board feels comfortable that they have my replacement on the job and up to speed."

SOURCE Blue Diamond Growers