Singapore-based food giant buys Hughson Nut Co. What it means for the 400 employees

Hughson Nut Company in Hughson, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019.
Hughson Nut Company in Hughson, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019.

Hughson Nut Inc., a leading player in the California almond industry, is being sold for $54 million to a Singapore-based food company.

Olam International Limited announced Tuesday that it had signed an agreement to purchase Hughson Nut’s three plants in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

The local management and the 400 or so employees will remain, as will the contracts with growers, Olam said in a news release. A spokesperson at Hughson Nut could not be reached for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

A group of almond growers founded Hughson Nut in 1985. It processes crops from much of the San Joaquin Valley at its plants on Verduga and Leedom roads, both near the city of Hughson, and on Mercedes Avenue near Livingston.

Hughson Nut sells its products in bulk as ingredients for other food companies. They include in-shell almonds and shelled nuts that are plain, blanched, sliced, diced, roasted or ground into flour.

“We see growing demand from consumers for healthy snacks and healthy plant protein,” said Ashok Krishen, Olam’s managing director and CEO of edible nuts, in the release. “This is driving growth in new product applications and therefore the demand for almond ingredients, particularly in the U.S.”

The release said Hughson Nut is among the top five almond producers in California, which accounts for about 80 percent of the world supply. That would place it in a second tier of companies below Blue Diamond Growers, by far the state’s leader.

Olam has a diverse array of food and beverage operations in more than 60 countries. They include dairy, grain, tomatoes, spices and several types of nuts. The company already owns almond orchards in California and does both growing and processing in Australia.

The Olam Spices & Vegetables division used to have a frozen food and dehydrated parsley plant on Whitmore Avenue in south Modesto. It closed in 2015.

Olam said it expects the Hughson Nut deal to close sometime in November.

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.