Hunt Bros. Cooperative

Frank M. Hunt III

Hunt Bros. Cooperative

  • Frank M. Hunt III 1 The second, third and fourth generations of the Hunt Bros. Cooperative gather in the family's packinghouse.
  • Frank M. Hunt III 2 Frank oversees operations in the packinghouse. He couldn't imagine having any other career but one in the citrus industry.
  • Frank M. Hunt III 3 The art of peeling an orange is a rite of passage for many citrus growers. Here, Frank expertly snakes off a rind and checks the quality of the fruit.
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The Hunt Bros. Cooperative packinghouse is a well-oiled machine, to say the least. That's to be expected, when you consider that it's been there since 1928. According to Hunt family records, its only hiccup came before it even started operating, when the 1928 Labor Day hurricane came through Lake Wales and ripped the entire roof off. Its structure was restored and later expanded on all four sides to house the booming operation that exists today.

As Frank M. Hunt III darts through the packing house's narrow maze, he explains the intricate path of each piece of fruit that enters. You quickly realize that he's as much a part of the machine as any belt or gear. Being president and third generation owner of the Hunt Bros. Cooperative, Frank has spent most of his lifetime in the packinghouse and, just like the exposed beams of the original structure, his citrus upbringing shows in almost everything he does.

He's quick to reel off the yearly numbers for Hunt Bros. Cooperative, the crop management company responsible for harvesting and marketing the fruit. He'll tell you what ratio of varieties went to what region, and how it matched up to years past. He says it's a part of being in a citrus grower family. "It's important to have family involvement," he says. "You create a personal interest in the business."

It's become a family business indeed. Hunt Bros. was started in 1922 by Frank's grandfather, Deeley A. Hunt, and Deeley's brother, Charles M. Hunt. Deeley eventually bought Charles out, and in the 1950s, his sons, Frank M. Hunt II and G. Ellis Hunt, joined their father in the business. Hunt Bros. was one of the six founding members of what is now Florida's Natural Growers. Deeley A. Hunt was the first Vice President of what was then known as Florida Citrus Canners, and later served as President and General Manager. Frank M. Hunt II served on the Board of Directors as it became Citrus World, Inc., for 51 years, including 30 years as Chairman and President. In his time with the cooperative, he led the transition from producer-oriented co-op to market-oriented co-op and the development of a premium brandIs Your Juice Imported?
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with a national marketing campaign that continues today to utilize its key grower-owned positioning.

Frank M. Hunt III came on board after graduating from college in the mid-1970s, and followed in his father's footsteps as the current Vice-Chairman of Florida's Natural Growers in 2003. His cousins, G. Ellis Hunt, Jr. and W. Deeley Hunt, and brother-in-law John S. Matteson also manage divisions of the Hunt Bros. brand.

When Frank III's son Daniel finished school, he went to work for another corporation, but soon decided to join his father, uncles, great-uncle, and grandfather. Frank says, "He figured if he's going to work that hard, he may as well work hard for the family business." Daniel and his cousin Michael bring up the fourth generation of the operation.

Together they continue to grow and market the highest quality fruit possible, through a set of uncompromisable values established by Deeley Hunt long ago. Frank attests that paying close attention to the health of the oranges in the groves brings better fruit to the packinghouse and, ultimately, better orange juiceIs Your Juice Imported?
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to the table. They utilize systems that reduce the use of water, fertilizer, chemicals, and fuel to grow each crop with a quality of fruit above industry standards. He believes it's the key in staying competitive in a global economy.

"Going forward we will certainly face stiff competition from other growing areas of the world, but I believe Florida can compete." He continues, "Florida is located closer to one of the best markets in the world. With the right varieties and good per-acre production, Florida oranges will have a distinct edge in the market."

It may sound complicated to anyone who wasn't raised in a citrus family, but Frank sees it all working together, just like the intertwining functions of his packinghouse. At the end of the day, he puts it in the simple terms passed on from his father and grandfather: "If you're going to stay in business, you've got to do what you need for the best fruit."

©2014 Citrus World, Inc.