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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 4, 201612:00 PM EST

Jacques Klempf sells Dixie Egg Co., 300 workers to be retained by Cal-Maine Foods

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An almost 70-year-old private company hatched in Jacksonville was sold Wednesday to a Mississippi-based public entity.

Entrepreneur, investor and restaurateur Jacques Klempf sold Jacksonville-based Foodonics International Inc., which does business as Dixie Egg Co., to Cal-Maine Foods Inc., based in Jackson, Miss.

“The timing is right,” Klempf said Thursday.

Cal-Maine Foods announced it completed the purchase Wednesday. The company says it is the largest producer and marketer of shell eggs in the U.S.

It reported $1.9 billion in net sales for the fiscal year that ended May 28 and record net income of $316 million.

Klempf, 59, said he did not have a succession plan for the now third-generation family egg profession and noted other family changes: He married his wife, Tracy, early last year and he has a grandchild.

“I am being pushed into that next part of my life,” he said.

That includes development of the Cowford Chophouse Downtown, as well as his leadership role in Forking Amazing Restaurants and other ventures.

Forking Amazing comprises Cowford Chophouse, Ovinte, Bistro Aix, Il Desco and Burlock and Barrel American Whiskey.

Klempf said he also is in a joint venture with Cal-Maine on a fertilizer product.

Foodonics’ 300 employees were retained by Cal-Maine, he said.

Cal-Maine did not report the acquisition price and Klempf declined to disclose it.

As part of the deal, Cal-Maine bought the Dixie Egg Co. Westside refrigerated warehouse from Klempf for $1.22 million.

That sale was completed Wednesday and recorded Thursday with the Duval County Clerk of Courts. The 20,000-square-foot warehouse is on almost 1.9 acres at 5139 Edgewood Court.

Klempf said he signed the letter of intent Aug. 1.

Cal-Maine said in a news release it bought substantially all of the assets of Foodonics International and its related entities doing business as Dixie Egg Co. related to their commercial production, processing, distribution and sale of shell eggs business.

The company said the acquired assets include commercial egg production and processing facilities with the capacity for about 1.6 million laying hens and related feed production, milling and distribution facilities in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

It said the acquisition also includes contract grower arrangements for an additional 1.5 million laying hens.

The sale also means Cal-Maine has acquired the Egg-Land’s Best Inc. franchise with licensing rights for portions of certain markets in Alabama, Florida and Georgia as well as Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Cuba, the company said.

Cal-Maine Foods says it is primarily engaged in the production, grading, packing and sale of fresh shell eggs, including conventional, cage-free, organic and nutritionally enhanced eggs.

Foodonics traces its start to Klempf’s grandfather, Jacob, who moved from Poland to the United States about 1920.

His first job after landing at Ellis Island was as an egg candler. He later moved to Wisconsin and began packaging and reselling eggs bought from local farms.

Edward, the youngest of his three children, moved to St. Petersburg, eventually finding a job as an egg buyer with a distribution business.

Heading back to Wisconsin, he stopped in Jacksonville to sell some eggs that were in cold storage. He stayed, got married and had three children. He founded Dixie Egg in 1948.

Jacques Klempf joined the business full-time at age 21 and became president in 1993 and CEO in 1998.

In summer 2015, Klempf said sales grew from almost $20 million in 1998 to more than $100 million.

Cal-Maine Foods was founded in 1957. It bought Ralston Purina’s egg operations in 1972 and completed 18 acquisitions since 1989.

It said it sold about 1 billion dozen shell eggs during fiscal 2016, which it believes represented about 23 percent of the domestic shell egg consumption.

Its top customers are Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Cal-Maine Foods’ flock comprises about 33.9 million layers and 9.4 million pullets and breeders. It says it’s the largest flock in the U.S.

As of May 28, Cal-Maine Foods operated three breeding facilities, two hatcheries, three wholesale distribution centers, 21 feed mills, 44 shell egg production facilities, 26 pullet growing facilities and 41 processing and packing facilities.

It also owned significant interests in two companies that own egg products facilities.

Cal-Maine Foods owned about 29,145 acres throughout its market.

It has been publicly traded since 1996 on Nasdaq under the symbol “CALM.”

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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