As the largest privately held company in the United States, Minneapolis-based Cargill is one of the world’s top producers and distributors of agricultural products such as sugar, refined oil, cotton, chocolate, and salt. The company was founded in 1865 by William Cargill and has remained in the family ever since.
The company limits the release of financial details, but its annual report lists adjusted operating earnings dropped 15% to $3.2 billion in fiscal 2018. Cargill plans to shed some of its poorly performing companies and focus on its more profitable lines of business.
Cargill’s cotton operations have roots dating back to 1818. With operations in India, the United Kingdom, Africa, Australia, Turkey, Brazil and China, Cargill Cotton has a presence in every cotton-producing and cotton-consuming region of the world. It operates warehouses in the United States and Brazil and utilizes its massive logistics infrastructure to deliver the commodity around the world.
Cargill Cotton buys cotton throughout the world and has over 1,000 employees. Through partnerships with other Cargill businesses, Cargill Cotton provides a wide variety of supply chain support such as financial solutions, risk management, quality control, and logistics.
Cargill Ocean Transportation
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, Cargill’s Ocean Transportation has multiple locations worldwide and has a fleet of hundreds of vessels transporting hundreds of millions of tons of cargo per year. The company makes thousands of port calls annually to over 700 different ports around the world. Iron ore, coal, grain, fertilizer, and sugar represent much of Cargill’s cargo, and the company is able to transport over 100 other dry bulk commodities. The company also offers tanker freight shipping services for crude oil and petroleum products. Cargill maintains that it is committed to protecting the environment using safe and efficient ships, and researching and developing new technologies such as SkySails, which uses wind power.
Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate
Cargill’s Cocoa and Chocolate company operates along the entire cocoa supply chain, with sourcing and processing operations in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia. The company produces a wide variety of cocoa and chocolate products in Europe, North America and Brazil under the Wilbur, Peter's and Veliche brand names. Cargill also provides products used by food companies around the world.
The cocoa industry faces several challenges that threaten the supply of the commodity. The majority of the global cocoa crop comes from small farms in emerging markets in West Africa. Most of these farms were established many years ago, and now have aging, less-productive trees. Expecting worldwide demand for cocoa and chocolate to increase, Cargill plans to provide farmer training, community support, and farm development to improve sustainability.
Diamond Crystal Salt
Cargill is the largest provider of salt in the United States and markets a variety of salt products through its Diamond Crystal brand. Cargill first entered the salt industry when it acquired mineral rights in Belle Isle, Louisiana, in 1962. The company also acquired a number of rock salt mines across the United States in the decades to follow and doubled in size with the acquisition of Diamond Crystal from Akzo Nobel Salt Inc. in 1997.
Diamond Crystal produces salt at rock salt mines, evaporated salt plants and solar salt operations at several U.S. locations and in Australia. Further, it harvests salt from offshore locations such as Bonaire and Venezuela. The company produces, packages and ships salt for agricultural, food, water conditioning, industrial and packaged ice control purposes.
Developed jointly with the Coca-Cola Company (KO), Truvia is a zero-calorie stevia-based sugar substitute marketed by Cargill as a tabletop sweetener and a food ingredient. Because Truvia comes from the stevia plant, Cargill classifies the product as a natural sweetener. Coca-Cola uses stevia in its Coca-Cola Life line of beverages.
Cargill also developed a new zero-calorie product in 2015 that it calls EverSweet, using a new fermentation process that produces certain molecules in the stevia plant. The process, developed along with Swiss biotech company Evolva Holding SA (SWX: EVE), could potentially provide major beverage producers with a low-cost natural sweetener.