Fresh Express drops plans to buy rivals packaged salad division

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Packaged salad marker Fresh Express dropped its plans to buy a rival’s fresh vegetable division Thursday after the U.S. Department of Justice raised competition concerns.

Fresh Express Acquisition LLC’s, a subsidiary of Chiquita Holdings Limited, announced its decision to abandon its proposed $308 million acquisition of Dole plc’s Fresh Vegetables division.

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Antitrust Division said it was a win for consumers.

“At a time when food companies are already overcharging Americans for groceries, today’s abandonment preserves lower prices and availability for an essential kitchen staple,” he said in a statement. “This merger would have reduced the number of competitors from three to two and raised grocery prices for food products that are purchased by 85% of American households.”

Dole said the “termination is the result of the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision that it will pursue litigation to prevent the transaction.”

The Ireland-based company said it disagreed with the DOJ.

“While Dole strongly disagrees with the Department of Justice’s decision and continues to believe that the transaction was pro-competitive and would have unlocked ongoing benefits to customers and consumers, we remain confident that we will have an alternative path forward in the near term that is in the best interests of the Fresh Vegetables Division’s employees, customers, and partners, and the Dole plc shareholders,” according to a statement from the company.

Dole plc grows, markets, and distributes fresh produce around the world. It has more than 37,400 employees who work to produce goods in 75 countries.