California Canners and Growers

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Summary
Business

Cannery
Active

1958 - 1984
Aliases

Cal Can
Predecessors

Filice and Perelli, Richmond-Chase, Thornton Canning, San Jose Canning Company, Glorietta Foods
Successors

Tri-Valley Growers

California Canners and Growers was a large California canner, formed in 1958 as a grower-owned co-operative. A group of farmers believed that owning the canneries would give them a guaranteed market for their product in bad years, and cut out the middleman in good years. Starting in 1958, the growers and their financial backers bought several smaller canning companies[1]. The founding companies included Filice and Perelli, Richmond-Chase, and San Jose Canning Company. Thornton Canning joined the new company in 1959. "Dale Hollenbeck, president of Thornton Canning Co., said that the sale is in line with the great integration movement currently going on in agriculture, especially in California[2]. Subsidiaries were merged into the parent company on June 1, 1963 according [3]. Richmond-Chase would bring Burnel Richmond as VP, Filice and Perreli, Peter M. Filice; Thornton Cannery, Dale G. Hollenbeck, Schuckl, George Coley. San Jose canning would be separate. They canned 500,000 tons of fruits and vegetables each season. The separate business named were removed in April 1964[4]. By 1970, the company was owned by 1,145 farmers in California and Wisconsin[5].

Joseph Perelli of Filice and Perelli suggested that the company expanded too quickly:[6]:

We started to negotiate with this group of growers and financial people, I guess, in probably 1957 or so. By June 1, 1958, we completed our negotiations and sold. Practically all the people that were in our organization transferred to California Canners and Growers.
There were other companies. Filice and Perrelli, Richmond Chase were the two basic companies that went with them first. Then they also took in Thornton Canning Company, which was located in Thornton, near Stockton. Then they took over San Jose Canning Company. They did that as months went by and they became pretty large. As a matter of fact, I think they grew too fast. It was a big operation, because they had a number of canneries. They had three canneries with the Filice and Perrelli, and two canneries with Richmond Chase, one with Thornton, one with San Jose Canning Company.

The company did a joint venture with Tri-Valley Growers in 1964 to share can-making costs[7]. The joint venture was called C.T. Supply, with its main office in Fremont, CA. The joint venture later changed its name to Tri-Valley Container Corporation.

By the early 1980's, the business began to sour for Cal Can. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the company was stung by consumer concerns over cyclamates used as a less expensive sweetener in canned fruit[8]; the federal government ended up passing a law to pay compensation to the canners who suffered losses by the sudden ban on cyclamates in the 1960's. Changing consumer preferences meant that demand dropped. Foreign competition constrained prices. When interest rates spiked in the early 1980's, Cal Can's lack of working capital meant that they were completely reliant on banks to put forward the money needed to pay the growers each season. When Bob Gibson, Cal Can's president, bought some of Libby's plants in 1982, Bank of America decided that supporting the company would require too much risk and held back from funding the canner for the season. Without another source for funding, Cal Can declared bankruptcy in 1983. They sold the Richmond cannery, and closed the San Jose Canning Company site on Lick Ave[9].

In 1984, California Canners and Growers was merged into Tri-Valley Growers. According to one source, "both companies were in trouble and the banks 'tossed a coin' over which company took over the other. All of Cal Can's local plants were shut down and sold off as scrap".

Locations

Location Plant Number Years Address Details
Gilroy CCG Plant 1 Lewis Ave. Former Filice and Perelli.
Lomira, Wisconsin 1969-[10] Canning and distribution. Peas, corn, and beans.
Merced -1983 Former Filice and Perelli[11]. Mentioned in Thornton Canning purchase article[12]. Cannery closed in 1983 after Cal Can's bankruptcy and because of a poor peach crop[13].
Richmond CCG Plant 5 1958-1970 1200 Harbor Way Former Filice and Perelli. Plant manager and night superintendent transferred to San Jose upon closure.
San Jose CCG Plant 2 1958-1984 1193 Lick Ave.[14] Former San Jose Canning Company.
San Jose CCG Plant 4 1958-1984 Stockton Ave. Former Richmond-Chase. Transportation department and parking on west side of Stockton Ave.
Stockton CCG Plant 7
Thornton Former Thornton Canning Company.

Photos

Photo of CalCan facility north of Diridon Station

Richmond cannery building

References

  1. June 6, 1958 Lodi News-Sentinel
  2. Cal-Can Buys Thornton Canning. June 12, 1959 Lodi News-Sentinel. Thornton rounded out Cal Can's business, adding additional tomato canning capacity.
  3. May 29, 1963 Lodi News
  4. 1964 Modesto Bee.
  5. Cyclamate Compensation. From CQ Almanac 1972.
  6. Joseph Perelli, The Establishment of the Filice and Perelli Company in Richmond. Oral history.
  7. Tri-Valley Growers History, fundinguniverse.com
  8. Cyclamate Compensation. From CQ Almanac 1972.
  9. San Jose Mercury News
  10. California Canning Company Opens "Windy Lomira". June 7, 1969 Milwaukee Journal.
  11. Elmer C. Nelson obituary, Jan 5. 2012. Nelson started at Filice and Perelli which became Cal Can.
  12. Cal-Can Buys Thornton Canning. June 12, 1959 Lodi News-Sentinel.
  13. Merced Cal Can Workers Idled. July 30, 1983 Lodi News-Sentinel.
  14. List of manufacturing businesses in Santa Clara County, Vocational Education memo, 1972.