Los Angeles Business Journal

Roll Sells Mandarin Brand, Moves from Cute to Wonderful

By Tom Dotan Originally published May 20, 2013 at 1:52 p.m., updated May 20, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.

Beverly Hill’s Roll Global LLC, the California agricultural empire led by the billionaire couple Stewart and Lynda Resnick, has sold the “Cuties” trademark for its seedless mandarin oranges.

The brand, which Roll owns through its Paramount Citrus subsidiary, was marketed in a joint venture with Pasadena grower Sun Pacific and Fowler Packaging. In an announcement, Paramount said it sold the entirety of the trademark to Sun Pacific and will be selling mandarins under its own “Wonderful” label. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

The company will retain its partnership with Fowler on this new endeavor, which will control 60 percent of the state’s mandarin crop.

“It’s important for us to control our own destiny and oversee all production, marketing and sales, so we can guarantee our customers the unsurpassed taste and quality they’ve grown to expect,” said Paramount Citrus President David Krause in a release. “We’ll continue to lead the market as we grow, process and sell this uniquely delicious fruit.”

This move comes following a spat between Paramount and Sun Pacific. Paramount sued Sun Pacific in March 2012 over alleged dilution of the “Cuties” trademark. As of late last year, the dispute had moved to arbitration.

The brand was developed in the late 1990s, when Sun Pacific began growing trees for a seedless Spanish variety of mandarins in the San Joaquin Valley. The company partnered with Roll, which now owns 14,000 acres of citrus groves across the state, to grow and market the fruit throughout the West Coast.

(The name “cuties” was reportedly coined by Lynda Resnick, who, upon holding the tiny fruit, commented on how “cute” they looked.)

In the 2005-06 growing season there were 21 million boxes of cuties packaged and sold. The brand has since gone national; a Wall Street Journal article from last December reported more than 75 million boxes were shipped during 2011-12.

That article also outlined an ongoing discontent Sun Pacific had over Paramount Farms’ high marketing costs.

Roll owns a number of brands under its Wonderful label, including POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, and Wonderful Almonds. A spokesman for Roll did not reveal the name of this newly branded citrus line, though the announcement mentioned it will encompass grapefruit. Late last year, Roll acquired a pair of Texas grapefruit growers, giving it 70 percent of the market.