|Traded as||NYSE: CAG
S&P 500 Component
|Founded||1919 as Nebraska Consolidated Mills
1971 as ConAgra Foods
|Headquarters||Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.|
|Key people||Gary M. Rodkin
President & CEO
|Revenue||US$13.3 Billion (2012)|
ConAgra Foods, Inc. is an American packaged foods company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. ConAgra makes and sells products under various brand names that are available in supermarkets, as well as restaurants and food service establishments.
ConAgra was founded in 1919 by Frank Little and Alva Kinney, who brought together four grain mills as Nebraska Consolidated Mills (NCM). Initially headquartered in Grand Island, Nebraska, it moved to Omaha in 1922. The company ran at a profit until 1936, when Kinney retired. In 1940, the company began producing flour at its own mill, and in 1942 ventured into the livestock feed business. That year president R.S. Dickinson opened the company's first out-of-state facility in Alabama with a flour mill and animal feed plant.
After researching new uses for their flour, NCM funded the establishment of the Duncan Hines brand of cake mixes in 1951 as a way to market more flour. This venture was very successful, leading the company to its current place as the third largest flour miller in the U.S. However, this did not lead NCM to consider other food ventures, and instead they sold their assets in Duncan Hines to Procter & Gamble in 1956. As American households purchased more and more prepared and instant foods in the 1950s and 1960s, NCM chose not to expand into the businesses that used their flour, instead turning in the opposite direction and focusing more on raw foods like poultry and expanding its livestock feed business.
In 1971, Nebraska Consolidated Mills changed its name to ConAgra, a combination of con for consolidated and agra, similarly short in English for agriculture. The 1970s brought the company to the brink of ruin as it lost money expanding into the fertilizer, catfish, and pet product industries and as commodity speculation wiped out ConAgra's margins on raw foods. In 1974, C. Michael "Mike" Harper, an experienced food industry executive, took over the firm and brought it back from the brink of bankruptcy. Nonetheless, ConAgra's business model left it at the mercy of volatile commodity prices. In response, the company set off on a two-decade-long buying spree, purchasing over one hundred prepared food brands, starting with its 1980 purchase of Banquet Foods. It moved heavily into the frozen food business and the packaged meat industry, and then picked up a selection of other brands from firms like RJR Nabisco and Beatrice Foods among others, as the leveraged buyouts of the 1980s resulted in the divestiture or breakup of many major American consumer product firms. In 1993 alone it purchased $500 million in smaller firms, and in 1998 it purchased another $480 million in brands from Nabisco.
On May 23, 2001, ConAgra Foods Inc said it would restate its earnings for 1998, 1999 and 2000, due to accounting and conduct matters at its United Agri Products Cos unit.For fiscal 1998, revenues was cut from $24.27 billion to $24.19 billion. On March 24, 2005, ConAgra Foods Inc said the results for fiscal 2003 and 2004 would be restated to reflect a reduction in after-tax profits of $150 million to $200 million in total.
On November 27, 2012 ConAgra officials announced they were purchasing Ralcorp, pending Ralcorp shareholder approval, for approximately $4.95 billion. Stockholders of Ralcorp Holdings Inc. would receive $90 per share. The deal is expected to be finished by the end of March, 2013. When done, it will make ConAgra the largest private-label packaged food business in the United States.
The board of directors are: Mogens C. Bay, Stephen G. Butler, Steven F. Goldstone, Joie A. Gregor, Rajive Johri, W. G. Jurgensen, Richard H. Lenny, Ruth Ann Marshall, Gary M. Rodkin, Andrew J. Schindler, and Kenneth E. Stinson.
ConAgra produces a wide array of food products including cooking oil, frozen dinners, hot cocoa, hot dogs, peanut butter and many others. Some of ConAgra's major brands include Hunt's, Healthy Choice, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher, Slim Jim (snack food), Reddi-wip, Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, P. F. Chang's, and Bertolli ready meals.
ConAgra has been criticized for its lack of response to global climate change. A 2006 report by CERES, a non-profit organization that works to address global climate change and other sustainability issues, titled "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection," measures how 100 leading global companies are responding to global warming. Companies in the report were evaluated on a 0 to 100 scale. ConAgra scored a total of 4 points, the lowest of any of the food companies rated. In a 2009 ranking by Newsweek, ConAgra was ranked 342nd out of America's 500 largest corporations in terms of overall environmental score.
In 2003-2004, ConAgra participated in a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency voluntary investigation and clean-up program. Through the program, the company cleaned up a property previously used for lithium ore processing and constructed a new 80,000-square-foot (7,000 m2) office/warehouse building. This voluntary program offers "future liability protection".
In May 2003, ConAgra and its subsidiary Gilroy Foods agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle charges of hiring discrimination brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The charges involved a July 1999 Teamsters strike at a plant in King City, California, then owned by Basic Vegetable Products LP but later purchased by ConAgra. In August 2001, the company successfully negotiated with the union to end the two-year strike with a new contract that would recall workers based on seniority. However, the recall process excluded workers who were on leave at the time of the purchase including those out due to work injury or pregnancy. Others were denied jobs due to a history of previous injury or illness, despite their having no restrictions on returning to work. According to the EEOC, most of the 39 workers who were excluded from the recall process had been working at the plant for 10 to 30 years and were primarily Hispanic and female.
In July 2004, 5 people were killed in a shooting inside the ConAgra Foods plant in Kansas City.
In 1997, ConAgra pled guilty to federal criminal charges that its Peavey Grain unit illegally sprayed water on stored grain to increase its weight and value and also bribed Federal inspectors. The company agreed to pay $8.3 million to resolve the charges, which included a $4.4 million criminal fine, $3.45 million as compensation for illegal profits and $450,000 to reimburse the U.S. Department of Agriculture for storage and investigation expenses. ConAgra had also paid $2 million to settle a related civil case filed by a group of Indiana farmers.
Demolition of historic site
In 1988, ConAgra threatened relocating out of Omaha, moving to Denver, Chicago or Minneapolis if the city didn't help them find a new location for their headquarters. Charles Harper requested that the city of Omaha demolish the historic site, one of the largest sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Omaha approved the demolition of over 20 historic structures in "Jobbers Canyon Historic District," a 19th-century warehouse district along the banks of the Missouri River in Downtown Omaha, Nebraska. The demolition was performed to make room for a sprawling new corporate campus and headquarters, and prompted protests and lawsuits from historic preservationists. Charles Harper, the chief executive of ConAgra at the time, described the structures as "some big, ugly red brick buildings." The National Trust for Historic Preservation asked that the historic legacy of a city and region not be held hostage to the narrow corporate preferences of a single commercial enterprise, but ConAgra refused to reconsider. The Jobbers Canyon district was adjacent to another historic district, the Old Market, which has proved to be an important center of cultural, tourist, and residential development in Omaha. Omaha's then-planning director, Marty Shukert, said it was more important to keep the city's downtown core healthy than to keep the historic district. Others noted that the district was in disrepair and ConAgra's new headquarters have been an aesthetic and economic improvement for the city.
Genetically modified food
In 2002, ConAgra, together with other major food and beverage companies including PepsiCo, General Mills, Kelloggs, Sara Lee, and H. J. Heinz Co., spent millions to defeat Oregon Ballot Measure 27, which would have required food companies to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients. According to the Oregon Secretary of State, ConAgra contributed $71,000 to the campaign to defeat the state ballot initiative.
Throughout 2012, ConAgra contributed $1,176,700 to a $46 million political campaign known as The Coalition Against The Costly Food Labeling Proposition, sponsored by Food Producers. This organization was set up to oppose the California citizen's initiative, known as Proposition 37, demanding mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Although the Proposition was defeated, there was strong consumer backlash against the Coalition's heavy-handed opposition. Consumer advocates encouraged nationwide boycotts of coalition members, and movements were started in several other states to enact similar labeling requirements. As a result, ConAgra and others in the Coalition met with Walmart (the largest food retailer in the US) to seek a nationwide labeling system for genetically modified foods, instead of trying to defeat the measures in every state.
ConAgra recalled 19 million pounds of ground beef in July 2002 with E. coli bacterial contamination. It was the third-largest recall up to that time. That meat was linked to the illnesses of 19 people in six Western and Midwestern states.
In February 2007, ConAgra recalled jars of Peter Pan and Great Value brand peanut butter with the product code "2111" on the lid, because they were linked to a Salmonella outbreak. Ultimately, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) documented more than 628 individuals who were stricken with salmonella poisoning in 47 states that could be traced back to Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter. Of those, 20% were hospitalized, according to the CDC, which reported no deaths associated with the outbreak. Since Peter Pan (but not Great Value) is only made at one plant, the recall turned out to include all Peter Pan jars sold in the U.S. between May 2006 and February 2007. As of August 2007, 39 lawsuits had been filed against ConAgra, seeking a total of more than $5 million in damages for doctor bills, hospital stays, and lost wages stemming from the contaminated food.
On September 4, 2007, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association recommended reduction of diacetyl in butter-like flavorings, such as those used in popcorn, due to cases of the potentially fatal disease bronchiolitis obliterans or "Popcorn Workers's Lung" appearing among plant workers exposed to diacetyl fumes, as well as in one case that involved a popcorn consumer. The next day ConAgra Foods announced that it would soon remove diacetyl from its Jiffy Pop and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn products.
On October 11, 2007, ConAgra asked stores to pull the Banquet and generic brand chicken and turkey pot pies due to 152 cases of Salmonella poisoning in 31 states being linked to the consumption of ConAgra pot pies, with 20 people hospitalized. At that time, both the USDA and ConAgra decided in favor of a consumer advisory and against a recall. ConAgra said the issue stemmed from pies not being cooked thoroughly in older microwaves, and that the package's heating instructions would be changed to reflect different microwaves. However, the plant in Marshall, Missouri, where the pot pies were manufactured was closed on October 11 as well. By October 12, a full recall was announced, affecting all varieties of frozen pot pies sold under the brands Banquet, Albertson's, Food Lion, Great Value, Hill Country Fare, Kirkwood, Kroger, Meijer, and Western Family. The recalled pot pies included all varieties in 7-oz. single-serving packages bearing the number P-9 or "Est. 1059" printed on the side of the package. By October 14, there were 174 cases of Salmonella poisoning in 32 states being linked to the consumption of the contaminated ConAgra pot pies, with 33 people hospitalized. Public interest groups criticized ConAgra for the delay in issuing the recall, a decision which ConAgra defended by saying the recall was a precaution. At the time of the recall, the USDA had still not identified the source of the salmonella contamination. On October 17, the Colorado Dept. of Public Health reported that "An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health departments involved a large cluster of illnesses caused by Salmonella that identified these products" and stated that, "Nationally, at least 211 individuals from 35 states have become ill."
2009 Slim Jim plants explosion
|Wikinews has related news: Explosion at ConAgra plant in North Carolina, multiple injuries|
On June 9, 2009 at 11:27 am ET, the Slim Jim manufacturing plant in Garner, North Carolina was rocked by an explosion that resulted in the collapse of a section of the facility's roof and wall. Four workers were killed while 67 others - including three firefighters - were hospitalized for burns and exposure to ammonia gases. The explosion happened when natural gas was purged into the interior of the building during commissioning of a new, gas-fired water heater. This explosion was directly responsible for an amendment to the National Fuel Gas Code prohibiting fuel gas piping systems in large buildings from being purged indoors.
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