In spring, California’s valley is blanketed in a glory of orchards in bloom. Soft, white petals flutter overhead and cover the ground, turning it downy and fragrant.
That promise of almonds is an integral part of springtime in the valley, but where do those almonds end up once they’ve matured?
One destination is a grower-owned co-op, Blue Diamond Growers headquartered in Sacramento. Blue Diamond has been in the business of almonds for 102 years and has become the world’s largest tree nut processing and marketing company. As well as marketing to all 50 states, the business also sells to many other countries and is the sixth largest U.S. food export.
Blue Diamond has been groundbreaking in many areas, calling themselves the “first name in almonds.” They were the first grower-owned cooperative for marketing almonds, the first to develop a market for California almonds in over 90 countries, and much more.
In 1909, an almond grower from the Lodi area named, J. P. Dargitz, first promoted a concept of a statewide almond marketing association. The next year, nine grower groups formed the California Almond Growers Exchange (CAGE). In 1911, a branded consumer package was proposed, and the Blue Diamond consumer business was born. The grower-owned co-op continued to flourish throughout the 20th century.
In 2000, Blue Diamond’s nut line was expanded when MacFarms, a macadamia producer from Hawaii, was purchased. 2010 found California almond crops averaging 1.5 billion pounds – double what they had been a decade ago and 80 percent of the world’s almond supply. The supply barely kept up with the world’s demand. Blue Diamond expanded its range of products, sending almonds past peanuts as the world’s top ingredient nut.
As the health benefits of almonds continue to be discovered – the Los Angeles Times stated that almonds are a good source of vitamin E, protein, fiber, and magnesium as well having been found to contribute to heart health – Blue Diamond continues to grow. It’s a co-op that has found its success in the almond orchards of California.