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Sun Gro is the largest producer of peat in North America and the largest distributor of peat moss and peat-based growing media products to the North American professional plant growers market. Sun Gro sells products primarily to professional greenhouse, nursery and specialty crop growers throughout North America, as well as to golf course developers and landscapers. Sun Gro was founded in 1929 in Vancouver, British Columbia as the Western Peat Company Ltd., as a producer of peat moss. Initial success enabled the company to grow and its operations expanded throughout British Columbia and eastward into central Canada. The business has had a number of owners over the years and was acquired by Hines in June 1993. In 1995, Hines was acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners II, L.P. (“Madison Dearborn”), a Chicago based private equity firm. Madison Dearborn introduced a new management team to Sun Gro in 1997, led by Mitch Weaver, as Chief Executive Officer.
Mitch Weaver and his new management team refocused the company’s strategy from building brand awareness and market share in the retail market to targeting the higher margin, more stable professional growers market, thus expanding its private label retail business and completing complementary strategic acquisitions. The team has undertaken this growth strategy, fueled in part by acquisitions, and has created a vertically integrated producer of value-added growing mixes with a broad North American footprint.
Between 1998 and 1999, Sun Gro made three separate strategic acquisitions which significantly expanded its product line and its ability to serve its customers across North America, while also improving the quality and life of its peat reserves. In 1998, Sun Gro acquired Lakeland Peat Moss Ltd. (“Lakeland”), which gave the company additional mixing capability and control over the majority of economically accessible peat reserves in western Canada. The company has enjoyed increased efficiencies in production and transportation due to the Lakeland acquisition.
In 1999, Sun Gro acquired Strong-Lite Products Corp. (“Strong Lite”) and certain assets of Pro Gro Products, Inc. (“Pro Gro”) through two separate transactions. These acquisitions strengthened Sun Gro’s leadership position in the professional growers segment by adding high quality bark-based growing mixes to its product line for the professional market while fulfilling the company’s desire to establish a North American footprint of mixing and distribution facilities.
Capacity and bog resources were added to that footprint in 2004 when Sun Gro acquired Lameque Quality Group. Also that year, the acquisition of the professional growing media business of The Scotts Company and their respected Metro Mix brand significantly enhanced Sun Gro’s ability to service growers in the Eastern part of North America with premium bark-based products.
Further peat resources were added over the following three years with the purchase of Pigeon Hill Peat (New Brunswick), Normiska Peat (Ontario) and Tourbiere Omer Belanger (Quebec).
Further expansion in the main horticultural areas of the United States was accomplished with the acquisition of Sun Up Horticulture (California), Kellogg Rich Grow (California) and Florida Potting Soils (Florida and Georgia). This expansion propels Sun Gro to a leadership position across North America in both the greenhouse and nursery segments.
In early 2011, Sun Gro Horticulture was acquired by a privately held company.