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Historic Timeline

Wild almonds emerge and develop on western slopes of mountains separating China from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Iran.

4,000 B.C.
People begin cultivating almonds in Central Asia and eastern Mediterranean area.

1,352 B. C.
King Tutankhamen takes handful of almonds to his grave to nourish him on his journey into the afterlife.

350 B.C.
Alexander the Great's armies bring almonds home to Greece to begin widespread almond culture in western Mediterranean area.

Almond orchard in the Sutter Buttes
Blue Almond orchard in the Sutter Buttes.
California growers experiment with almond culture; following failed attempts in eastern U.S. Almonds prove well adapted to California climate.

California almond crops in excess of one million pounds test marketing ability of numerous growers negotiating with only a few buyers.

Local growers form the Davisville Almond Growers Association to pool their crops and bargain for higher prices. Their success encourages growers in other districts to form similar associations.

J. P. Dargitz
In 1909, a speech by J. P. Dargitz at a grower conference in Watsonville triggered the movement that led to the formation of the California Almond Growers Exchange. Dargitz was the Exchange's first president, and was a fruit and almond grower from Acampo, a village north of Lodi, California.
J. P. Dargitz, an almond grower from the Lodi area, promotes concept of a statewide almond marketing association.

On May 6 at the Hotel Turclu in Sacramento, nine grower associations, representing 1,200 tons of almonds and 60 percent of the probable California crop, form the California Almond Growers Exchange (CAGE).

T.C. Tucker proposes a branded consumer package of inshell almonds to be sold through department stores to help stabilize the almond market, which launched the Blue Diamond consumer business.

CAGE erects an almond hulling and shelling plant on C Street in Sacramento to expand its shelled almond business for higher member returns.

CAGE moves its headquarters to San Francisco to be closer to the financial center, port and business services.

T.C. Tucker lobbies U.S. government to improve railroad rates and service for almond shippers, expanding on his efforts begun seven years earlier to lower freight rates on almonds and increase tariffs on imported almonds. His contacts establish CAGE's close relationship with government officials.

CAGE invents almond bleaching and drying system to salvage rain-stained inshell almonds for superior member returns.

Thelma Tucker
Eight year old Thelma Tucker was the daughter of the first manager of the Exchange, T.C. Tucker, and the first image used to advertise Blue Diamond almonds.
CAGE mounts nationwide sales and advertising campaign to help move huge crop, building on the Exchange's earlier work with brokers and buyers to encourage brand awareness and increased sales. The 1919 campaign began the association's use of media to promote the Blue Diamond brand and sell California almonds nationwide.

CAGE opens New York office to work with brokers, wholesalers and retailers to help sell more almonds.

CAGE introduces The Minute Book, a publication designed to keep the membership "informed of what their cooperative is doing, its decisions and the reasons for those decisions."

Plant operations expand to include manufacturing with work underway on canning blanched, salted almonds. Plant personnel develop the necessary equipment, including cracker, bleacher, scalder, grader, cooker and gum and salt application machines.

CAGE develops chocolate candy market for California almonds with some million-pounds of shelled almonds sold to major candy manufacturers.

6-pound vacuum packed can of almonds for sundae topping
6-pound vacuum packed can of almonds for sundae topping.
CAGE successfully blanches and salts California almonds to compete with imports and expands manufactured line to include roasted, sliced, split, pieces and ice cream topping.

As the Great Depression deepens, CAGE board authorizes "tentative" pool closings to get as much money in members' hands as soon as possible.

Tucker attributes CAGE's marketing success with the 1933-34 crops to "preferential trade, the confectionery and baking trade which is exacting in its grading demands."

CAGE successfully introduces three new items for the retail trade: a one-pound cellophane package of unshelled almonds, and one-half pound and one-pound cellophane packages of shelled almonds.

CAGE moves back to Sacramento into new offices across from plant.

CAGE hires advertising executive to create an in-house program to promote retail sales and wider use of almonds in ice cream, candy and bakery products.

CAGE introduces cultural seminars at annual meetings to help growers cope with rising insect damage in orchards.

CAGE adopts nutrition message for almonds, funds new research on almond benefits and distributes results nationwide. Almonds win privileged status as an "essential food" during World War II. Growers get special access to production materials.

Large annual meetings suspended for duration of World War II.

CAGE focuses on consumer market to move record-size 1945 crop in weakening post-war economy.

Smokehouse Cocktail Almonds introduced to receptive consumers. Numerous new products for bakery and ice cream businesses introduced to win more sales to those trades. President Truman signs bill authorizing marketing order for almonds and filberts.

Almond growers overwhelmingly approve almond marketing order.

A wooden California Almond Growers Exchange box
A wooden California Almond Growers Exchange box full of shelled almonds.
CAGE introduces wooden bulk boxes to replace field bags for grower deliveries.

CAGE invites leading Spanish and Italian exporters to talks to exchange marketing information. The success of the meetings established a more stable world market.

CAGE completes construction of 14-silo bulk storage complex designed to hold nine thousand tons of almonds for processing.

50th Anniversary celebration at State Fairgrounds. Chairman Delbert Birdseye and General Manager D. R. Bailey retire. W. Glenn Stalker becomes General Manager after serving since 1939 in finance and membership and government relations. William McNeil becomes chairman.

Electric eye sorting technology developed at CAGE declared operational and CAGE begins purchasing the machines.

California almond growers out-produce both Spain and Italy. Exports to Europe continue to set records, building on the pioneering work throughout the 1950s by Jack Axer, export manager.

Airline snack packs
Airline snack packs included smoked and Smokehouse Almonds from the late 1960s.
Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds take to the skies on American Airlines, inaugurating a vast new market that at its peak saw every major airline serving the snack almonds on their flights.

CAGE introduces its new hulling system that provided high-volume hulling at relatively low cost. Debuts "Elegance Is An Almond" film distributed to TV stations, schools and civic groups in the U.S. and abroad.

New, more modern and graphically strong Blue Diamond logo debuts. Bulk truck delivery by growers introduced at Chico.

Salida receiving station opens. Also includes bulk receiving pits, scales, automatic samplers and high-capacity elevators to transfer deliveries to storage building holding 25 million pounds of in-shell almonds.

Distribution and storage center east of silos opens to streamline shipping operations. CAGE launches first million-dollar advertising and promotion campaign to move record crop.

California growers approve advertising program for almond marketing order.

Roger J. Baccigaluppi becomes Chief Executive Officer upon Stalker’s retirement.

Blue Diamond Almonds
Walt Payne, vice president - export, is first representative of California almond industry to visit the People's Republic of China. Board establishes Grower Liaison Committees in each membership district to strengthen communications between members and management.

CAGE targets health food/natural food markets in its advertising and with new trail mix product: Almunch. Steve Easter, manager of member and government relations, obtains lower tariff on almonds shipped into India, opening that market to California almonds.

Largest crop in history - 376 million pounds - and highest prices ever make almonds California's leading food export. CAGE handles 95 percent more tonnage than previous year, achieves lowest costs in years, and counts its highest membership total of some 5,000 growers.

CAGE introduces member-employee investment certificate program and composite, pull-top can that costs less, keeps contents fresh longer and looked better on the shelf.

CAGE purchases Oregon Filbert Growers of Salem, Oregon, to gain leverage in the marketplace and earn extra profits for members.

CAGE purchases the Del Monte plant on the adjoining property and converts it for manufacturing operations, offices, a visitor center and retail store, and storage.

CAGE launches largest advertising and promotional campaign in its history to move its share of a 600 million pound crop. Multi-media campaign included first almond cookbook published in the U.S. - "New Almond Cookery."

A can a week, that's all we ask.
In November 1986, television viewers were amused to see for the first time real almond growers, buried waist deep in 2.5 million almond kernels, making a pitch: "A can a week, that's all we ask."
The instantly popular "A Can A Week, That's All We Ask" television campaign hits the airwaves.

The official name of the cooperative is changed from California Almond Growers Exchange to Blue Diamond Growers to capitalize on the public awareness of the brand.

After being beaten on grower returns for two years in a row, the Board of directors changes the mission of Blue Diamond Growers from working to achieve higher prices for the entire industry to "beat the competition.," and begins modernizing and streamlining operations.

Roger Baccigaluppi steps down as President and Chief Operating Officer Walter F. Payne is named successor.

Blue Diamond accelerates efforts to increase competitive standing, reaches out to members for suggestions on communications and operations effectiveness. First meeting of new Member Relations of Advisory Committee that would meet with management several times a year to discuss major issues and exchange ideas on operations and policies. High Quality Grower Meat Program launched to reduce processing costs and reward producers of top quality meats.

The leadership class of 1997
The leadership class of 1997 is shown meeting with President Walt Payne for a candid discussion of Blue Diamond policies and procedures, and almond industry issues.
Leadership Program for young growers introduced.

After extensive economic analysis, Board votes unanimously to keep processing plants in Sacramento and Salida as opposed to moving to a new location to reduce costs. Millions of dollars of improvements to increase capacity, efficiency and quality at the two locations followed.

Almond Board right to engage in generic advertising for almonds restored by court decision. Nutrition and health research on effect of almonds in human diet funded by ABC in the interim results in flood of evidence that eating almonds helps prevent chronic diseases, obesity and supports a healthy lifestyle. Blue Diamond and ABC capitalize on those findings with advertising and public relations messages encouraging consumers to eat almonds for health as well as pleasure.

Blue Diamond expands nut line with purchase of MacFarms of Hawaii, a macadamia producer. Large crops continue to disrupt almond markets worldwide, resulting in low producer prices and grower concerns. Walter Payne, CEO, retires, is replaced by Doug Youngdahl, effective January 2001.

The board of directors and top management begin annual strategic planning sessions. First plan sets new course for Blue Diamond with goals to achieve a better return for members than competition pays, reduce revolving reserves, expand global demand for Blue Diamond products and lead the industry as most efficient processor. Youngdahl promotes "rational marketing" to reduce effect of speculation and let market prices reflect facts of supply and demand. All Natural line of products introduced. Almonds declared a "Super Food" by nutrition researchers. Blue Diamond operating costs cut nine cents per pound with introduction of new efficiencies and deep cuts in staffing. Elaine Rominger, first female director, elected.

Nut-Thins were a hit with consumers beginning in 1997. Crispy crackers made with almonds and rice, and targeted for upscale, gourmet cracker consumers, the low-calorie, wheat-free crackers are popular with gluten-intolerent consumers.
Youngdahl continues to urge industry not to fear larger crops because demand continues to rise at steady pace worldwide, and would support higher prices to growers to encourage more production to meet future demand. Media stories promoting almonds as a healthy food proliferate. Nut*Thins win American Taste Award of Excellence in a blind tasting by professional chefs. John O'Shaughnessy joins Blue Diamond as head of consumer marketing. Major improvements in processing efficiency and productivity meet growing customer demand for high-end products and services, and increasing grower deliveries. At annual meeting, Chairman Howard Isom declares, "Excitement is the right word for what is happening at Blue Diamond...(there's) a confident 'Can Do' attitude of a winner..."

After 2002 crop is declared the first billion-pound crop, Youngdahl says, "We needed it to meet worldwide demand!" Grower prices rise as market responds to Blue Diamond supply/demand information; growers begin replanting. Almonds approved by FDA for first qualified health claim for a food for immediate use on packaged foods. Blue Diamond grower return at top of the industry. Processing costs lowest in 25 years. Customers continue to choose Blue Diamond over the competition for "superior quality" and "products no one else can produce."

The Blue Diamond brand is the Number One snack almond with a 43 percent share. Grocery sales are up nearly 50 percent for second year in a row. All shipments set records. Global demand responds to good health and nutrition news about almonds, exceeds supply. Growers step up planting pace. Nurseries sell out. Grower return for 2003 is 35 percent higher than 2002 which was 26 percent higher than 2001. Growers are back in the black. Almond industry leadership acknowledges Blue Diamond's vital role in the industry's success.

Worldwide demand continues to grow at rapid pace. Industry markets rationally. Blue Diamond BOLD line extensions introduced - Jalapeno Smokehouse, Lime 'n Chili, Maui Onion & Garlic, and Wasabi & Soy Sauce. BOLD line appeals to fastest-growing consumer groups in America: young men, Asians and Hispanics. A modernized Blue Diamond logo is introduced. "Continuous Improvement" culture at Blue Diamond wrings more costs out of operations while enhancing quality and productivity. Nut*Thins premium crackers add two flavors: Cheddar Cheese and Country Ranch. Almond Breeze sales soar 128 percent.

Blue Diamond's Natural Foods group - Almond Breeze and Nut*Thins - sales accelerate three years in a row. Almond Breeze is fastest-growing non-dairy beverage in the aseptic category. McDonald's introduces Asian Salad with Blue Diamond almonds, following Jack-in-the-Box example the year before. Construction begins on new Salida Distribution Center and state-of-the-art production line. Plantings accelerate. Industry ships one billion pounds a year three years in a row. Youngdahl announces 2005 crop return is highest ever - the fourth year in a row of higher returns while industry produced the four largest crops in history. Howard Isom retires as chairman and from board of directors.

Clinton Shick is elected chairman and Dale van Groningen, vice chairman. The new pasteurization rule that Blue Diamond led the development of for the industry becomes effective on 2007 crop. Blue Diamond advertising returns to TV on the Oprah! and Dr. Phil shows. Youngdahl continues to encourage the rest of the industry to engage in "rigorous marketing" as opposed to lowering prices, because growing worldwide consumption could easily absorb larger crops. Two more BOLD flavors are introduced: Salt 'n Vinegar and Salt & Black Pepper. A line of 100-calorie packs of almonds and a line of oven-roasted almonds for women are introduced. O'Shaughnessy announces "best year ever" for Consumer Foods: highest sales, new products higher grower return contribution.

Industrial products sales expanding worldwide as Blue Diamond volume increases and new uses for almonds are developed. Several years of statewide water shortages begin to affect almond production in hardest-hit areas. Consumers seeking gluten-free products adopt Nut-Thins, sales up 20 percent a year. Chilled Almond Breeze is introduced to dairy cases nationwide. A surge of new members, larger crops and expanding member acreages in 2007 produced member deliveries not expected until 2010, but plant upgrades and added shifts met the challenge. Sacramento plant running manufacturing lines continuously to meet remarkable growth in Consumer Foods sales. Don Yee, businessman and consultant, joins board as first "outside" director for Blue Diamond.

Worldwide financial crisis not a serious threat to Blue Diamond, Chairman Shick assures members. Blue Diamond continues to maintain a "Golden" balance sheet. Food Safety becomes regular topic in news media following a series of major food recalls in a variety of food industries. Blue Diamond leads in food safety practices and technology, and works closely with huller/shellers to keep raw product free of contamination. Blue Diamond Almond Butter in two styles and three different flavors has successful launch. The ingredient almond business begins leveraging the Blue Diamond brand at the retail level in Europe and to drive ingredient sales growth worldwide with new products, new partnerships and emphasis on the nutritional value of almonds. Four new flavors of the oil-roasted line are introduced.

Mark D. Jansen, President and Chief Executive Officer
Mark D. Jansen
President and CEO
With crops averaging over 1.5 billion pounds, double what they were in 2000, California almond growers produce over 80 percent of the world's almond supply, while barely keeping up with rising world demand. California growers export 70 percent of what they produce to over 95 countries. Blue Diamond's vast array of new products continues to expand, adding value for consumers and growers alike, and creating greater demand for almonds. New industrial products from Blue Diamond led to many new uses which catapulted almonds past peanuts as the world's #1 ingredient nut. Blue Diamond's commitment to the concept of Power in Partnership with growers, employees, customers and suppliers paid off handsomely in the first decade of 2000 and promises to lead the cooperative to even greater heights in the decades ahead. It will be a story of commitment, innovation, integrity and quality. Mark Jansen was selected by the Blue Diamond Growers Board of Directors to become President and Chief Executive Officer on October 4, 2010, replacing retiring President and CEO Doug Youngdahl after his 10 years of leadership.