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Dole Food Company

Dole Food Company, Inc.
Industry Agribusiness
Founded 1851[1] as Castle & Cooke
Founder Samuel Northrup Castle
Amos Starr Cooke
Headquarters Westlake Village, California, USA
Area served
Key people
David H. Murdock
Products Fruit
Other food products
Revenue US $7.2 Billion (2011)[2]
38.4 million (2011)[2]
Number of employees
34,500 (2011)[3]
Website .com.dolewww

Dole Food Company, Inc. is an American agricultural multinational corporation headquartered in Westlake Village, California. The company is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, operating with 74,300 full-time and seasonal employees who are responsible for over 300 products in 90 countries.[4][5] Dole markets such food items as bananas, pineapples (fresh and packaged), grapes, strawberries, salads, and other fresh and frozen fruits and juices.

Dole's Chairman founded the Dole Nutrition Institute, a nutritional research and education foundation.


  • History 1
  • Operations 2
    • Management and staff 2.1
    • Products 2.2
    • Corporate headquarters 2.3
  • Legacy 3
  • Mascot 4
  • Criticism and controversies 5
    • Legal cases 5.1
    • Hawaiian coup 5.2
    • Food safety 5.3
    • Labor relations 5.4
    • Labeling of genetically engineered foods in California 5.5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Dole Plantation on Oahu, Hawaii.

The company traces its origin to the 1851 establishment of Castle & Cooke by missionaries Samuel Northrup Castle and Amos Starr Cooke. Castle & Cooke rapidly became one of the largest companies in Hawaii, investing in shipping, railroad construction, sugar production, and seafood packing. The other half of Dole's corporate heritage, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, was founded in 1901 by James Dole, who opened his first pineapple plantation in the central plateau of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Sanford Dole, the cousin of James, had been president of the Republic of Hawaii from 1894 after the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii (her last monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani), and first governor of the Territory of Hawaii until 1903.[6] The annexation of Hawaii to the United States made selling agricultural products to the mainland much more profitable, since they would never be subject to import tariffs.

In 1932, Castle & Cooke purchased a 21% interest in the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. In the 1960s, Castle & Cooke acquired the remainder of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company and the Standard Fruit Company and renamed the company "The Dole Food Company, Inc" in 1991. Castle & Cooke Inc, a real estate company, was spun off in 1995; it is currently operating as a subsidiary of Flexi-Van Leasing, Inc.

Dole freighter sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico

It was then the third largest producer and U.S. importer of bananas. Dole and Chiquita remain the top two U.S. banana companies as of 2011. In 2011, the company reported $7.2 billion in annual revenue.[2]

Dole operates plantations throughout Central and South America, and in the Asia-Pacific region, with plantations in the Philippines and two packing plants in Thailand, Hua Hin and Chumphon.[7]

As part of a major restructuring in 2012, Dole agreed to sell its worldwide packaged foods and Asia fresh produce businesses to Japanese trading house Itochu for $1.7 billion in cash. The transaction paid down a large amount of Dole's debt and refocused the company's business on fresh fruit and vegetables.[8] The businesses acquired by Itochu continue to use the Dole brand and are owned by Dole International Holdings, a Tokyo-based subsidiary of Itochu.[9]

In August 2013, Dole announced that CEO David Murdock would acquire the outstanding stock of the company for $1.2 billion.[10] The sale closed in October 2013, but was challenged by shareholders who argued that the company was undervalued, based in part on underestimated cost savings from the 2012 sale of the Asia business. In 2015, the Delaware Chancery Court awarded $148 million in damages to the former shareholders, on the grounds that Murdock and David Carter had misled shareholders regarding the finances of the company.[11] Dole, which had moved its corporate registration from Hawaii to Delaware in 2001, became an outspoken critic of Delaware corporate law as a result of this litigation.[12]


Management and staff

As of March 2013, Dole's board of directors consisted of David H. Murdock, Chairman of the Board; C. Michael Carter, President and Chief Operating Officer; Elaine L. Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor; Andrew J. Conrad; David A. DeLorenzo; E. Rolland Dickson, M.D.; Sherry Lansing, former actress and film studio executive; Justin M. Murdock; and Dennis M. Weinberg.[13]


Fresh ripe Dole pineapples (Philippines)

Including the original pineapple, Dole distributes fresh plant foods in the forms of whole fruits, whole vegetables, berries, and fresh-cut vegetables. Packaged products include fruit bowls, fruit bowls in gel, fruit in plastic jars, fruit parfaits, fruit crisps, dates, raisins, and canned fruits. Frozen products include berries, tropical fruits, and fruit bars. Juices are sold chilled, frozen, or canned. Salad products include greens, salad kits, and shreds.[14]

In 1998 Dole bought several growers in Colombia and became the largest distributor of fresh-cut flowers in the US. However, by 2008 the flower business was losing money, and it was bought in January 2009 by a group of private investors.

Corporate headquarters

In 1994, Dole announced that it would finalize its plans to build its world headquarters on a 30-acre (120,000 m2) site owned by the company, located north of the Ventura Freeway in Westlake Village, California. The decision had been delayed by groundwater contamination tests and reviewing of possible site plan revisions. Having submitted its plans for final approval by the Westlake Village City Council on February 9, 1994,[15] Dole completed construction and opened its new world headquarters building in May 1999.


Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze

The Guinness Book of World Records (2001) lists the pineapple maze at the Dole Plantation in Oahu, Hawaii as the world's largest maze.[16]

The Dole Nutrition Institute (DNI) was founded by David H. Murdock in 2003 to “Feed the World with Knowledge” through research and education regarding the health benefits of a plant-based diet.


Bobby Banana is a mascot of Dole Food Company and the leader of the SuperKids (children who regularly eat five to nine fruits and vegetables every day).[17] He is an anthropomorphic banana, who appears in Dole comics and games for children, along with friends Courtney Cauliflower, Mia Mango, Pinellopy Pineapple, and Gavin Grape, all of whom are also anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables.[18]

In 1985 and 1986, the Dole banana was featured as the official banana of the Pittsburg State University (KS) Gorillas' athletic programs. The project was the brainchild of then Pitt State radiosports play-by-play voice Scott Burton. The introduction of the Dole banana as the official banana of the Gorillas delighted then Athletic Director David Suenram and Pittsburg State University sports fans alike. The head football coach at the time of the promotion was Dennis Franchione. Dole provided company trinkets for fan giveaways and the popularity of the Dole banana thrived in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri (Joplin) during the promotion's two-year run.

Criticism and controversies

Legal cases

In 2001, Dole was involved in the suit Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. v. Dole Food Co. with Del Monte Fresh over the potential misappropriation of Del Monte's specially-bred pineapple.

Hawaiian coup

James Dole, who founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, came to Hawaii in 1899, five years after his cousin (once removed), Sanford B. Dole had taken up position as first president of the republic, following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.[19] Although his elder cousin was involved with the takeover of Hawaii, James himself was a teenager living in Massachusetts at the time of the coup.[20] However, the company's commercial activities would not have been possible without the later annexation of Hawaii to the US,[21] which resulted in the removal of high import tariffs on Hawaiian products (see Overthrow). Removal of tariffs through annexation was one of the goals of the 1894 coup plotters, though annexation did not occur until 1898.[22]

Food safety

In 2005, 23 people in Minnesota were sickened with E. coli O157:H7. The source of the bacteria was found to be Dole brand bagged lettuce.[23] Then in 2006, another E. coli outbreak that caused over 200 people to become ill and killed 3 more was linked to bagged spinach sold by Dole. The spinach was processed by Natural Selection Foods in California.[24]

Labor relations

Dole banana fruit label

The banana industry has traditionally been dominated by a few large corporations, which employ low-wage workers in developing countries.[25][26] Dole was named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of 73 heirs of victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia.[27]

In 2007, Nicaraguan plantation workers, represented by Los Angeles-based personal injury lawyer Juan Dominguez, sued Dole and Dow Chemical Company, claiming the use of illegal pesticides such as the now banned Nemagon (containing DBCP) had made them sterile. The pesticide was not banned in Nicaragua until after Dole ceased its operations within the country. The suit and two others were subsequently thrown out by California courts after it was concluded that “[c]ontrary to their sworn testimony, most of the plaintiffs never worked on Dole-affiliated banana farms and none were involved in the DBCP application process,” while similar lawsuits were filed in U.S. and Nicaraguan courts.[28]

A lawyer for the Nicaraguans, Steve Condie, however, stated that some of the witnesses who gave testimony that the claims were fraudulent, had been paid by Dole. The witnesses' identities were kept secret so that the plaintiffs' lawyers could not interview them.[28]

Swedish film director Fredrik Gertten made a documentary film about Dominguez and the alleged banana workers. The movie Bananas!* premiered in the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. Dole said they had serious concerns about the film's accuracy and they urged festival officials to "immediately cease and desist" their sponsorship of the film.[29][30][31][32] The festival officials allowed the film to be screened, but it was not allowed to compete for placement in the competition. In addition, festival officials distributed information before the film's screening that indicated Dole believed the film to be factually inaccurate.

Although the film was screened with a disclaimer from the festival, Gertten was subsequently sued for defamation by Dole.[33] The lawsuit was dropped on October 15, 2009, and in November 2010 a court in Los Angeles found in favour of the movie crew making it possible to release the movie in the USA, and ordering Dole to pay SEK 1.4 million (roughly USD 200,000) to the filmmakers.[34]

The Nicaraguan DBCP awards against Dole were overturned in July 2010.[35]

In May 2013 Oxfam demanded Dole remove its 'Ethical Choice' labels from its bananas in New Zealand until it improved treatment of its workers in the Philippines, but Dole said Oxfam was trying to "destroy the Dole brand" in favour of another supplier.[36]

Labeling of genetically engineered foods in California

In 2012, Dole Packaged Foods contributed $171,261 to a $46 million political campaign known as "The Coalition Against The Costly Food Labeling Proposition, sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers".[37]


  1. ^ Dole: Company History (Retrieved November 29, 2007)
  2. ^ a b c d Hoover's: Dole Food Company, Inc. Factsheet (Retrieved April 2, 2012)
  3. ^ "Dole Food Company Inc.: Private Company Information - Businessweek". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  4. ^ "Dole Food Company, Inc. Company Profile - Yahoo! Finance". 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  5. ^ "| Company Profile from Hoover’s". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  6. ^ "Dole, Sanford Ballard office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 2010-01-20. 
  7. ^ "Locations of Dole Food Company in Thailand". Dole Food Company. 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "Japan's Itochu to buy Dole Food businesses for $1.7 billion". Reuters. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "Dole Business". Itochu Corporation. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "Dole Food Agrees to $1.2 Billion Buyout Offer". The Wall Street Journal. August 12, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  11. ^ Hoffman, Liz (27 August 2015). "Dole Executives Ordered to Pay $148 Million in Buyout Lawsuit". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  12. ^ Hoffman, Liz (2 August 2015). "Dole and Other Companies Sour on Delaware as Corporate Haven". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Dole | Company Info | Board of Directors". Dole | Company Info | Investor Relations Home. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Dole Food Company, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-16. 
  14. ^ "All About Dole Products". official web site. Dole Food, Inc. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Dole gets ready to turn first shovel of headquarters dirt: plans are set to go to Westlake Village City Council".  
  16. ^ "Dole Plantation - Hawaii's Complete Pineapple Experience - Maze". Dole Plantation, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-01-21. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  17. ^ "WhatsASuperkid". Dole. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  18. ^ "Homepage". Dole. 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  19. ^ Tsai, Michael (July 2, 2006), "James Dole",  
  20. ^ Siddall, John William, ed. (1921). Men of Hawaii: a biographical reference library, complete and authentic, of the men of note and substantial achievement in the Hawaiian Islands. The Story of Hawaii and its builders 2. Honolulu, HI, USA:  
  21. ^  
  22. ^  
  23. ^ Murphy, Joan (October 17, 2005). "Minnesota finds E. coli in lettuce bags". Oradell, NJ, USA: The Produce News.  
  24. ^ "E. coli Food Poisoning". 2006-10-27. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  25. ^ Peter Chapman (July 2009). Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World. Canongate U.S. p. 21.  
  26. ^ Anup Shah (January 3, 2010). "The Banana Trade War". Global Issues Blog. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Juana Perez 1-51/Juan Perez 5E-50 v. Dole Food Company, Inc.". Cases. International Rights Advocates. April 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-20. 
  28. ^ a b "Dole Uses Judge Attack in Banana Case to Undo $2 Billion Awards". Bloomberg. June 24, 2009. 
  29. ^ Edelman, Scott A. (May 8, 2009). "Letter from Dole, May 8, 2009" (PDF). Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Interview with director Fredrik Gertten | BANANAS!*". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  31. ^ "Bananas får inte tävla på festival - Regionala nyheter". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  32. ^ "About the film – BANANAS!*".  11 June 2009 -
  33. ^ Deutcsh, Linda (July 9, 2009). "Dole sues 'Bananas!' filmmaker, alleges defamation".  
  34. ^ Mlik, Nora. "Filmen "Bananas" vann mot Dole" [The film "Bananas" won against Dole] (in Swedish). Stockholm, Sweden: Retrieved October 6, 2012.  Google machine translation of this article
  35. ^ Victoria Kim (July 16, 2010). "Judge throws out verdict awarding millions to Dole workers".  
  36. ^ "Dole bananas not ethical - Oxfam". 3 News NZ. May 28, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Who's Funding Prop 37, Labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods? | Propositions | Elections 2012". Retrieved 2015-06-06. 

External links

  • Dole Food Company, Inc.
  • Yahoo! - Dole Food Company, Inc. Company Profile

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