David Murdock, the pineapple king

Last Can of Dole

What if this was the last can of Dole pineapple in the world?

While writing my recipe for Carrot Pineapple Jello I experienced the following unusual economic behavior:

  • Unlike almost other canned fruits and vegetables, there was no store-brand alternative available in my local supermarket. Only Dole.
  • Unlike other products which offer a substantial discount when you buy scraps rather than perfect pieces, Dole Pineapple costs the same whether you are buying rings, chunks or bits.
  • Unlike other products which which charge a modest penalty if you don’t buy the bigger size, Dole nearly doubles the price per ounce for a slightly smaller can.
  • I later found a store brand pineapple in another store and it was truly terrible, as if somebody had cut off supply of all the good pineapples.

Clearly a not-so-invisible hand is at work here, and I did some research. It turns out Dole pineapple is owned by ONE GUY, David H. Murdock. (Not to be confused with Rupert Murdoch, who has less money.) Murdock bought the legendary but nearly defunct Castle and Cook in 1985, which included the Dole pineapple plantations. The stock traded publicly at one time but he took it private with a leveraged buyout in 2013.

I realize you can’t say David Murdock owns all the pineapples in the world because he deals with some independent growers. But how successful would they be at getting to market without him? Also, when billionaire Larry Ellison bought an entire Hawaiian island (Lanai) to turn into a private resort somebody had to sell to him. Yep, it was this guy.

So what happens if David Murdock decides to stop selling pineapples, dye them pink, or double the price? We really don’t have anything to say about that, do we? David Murdock seems to be a benevolent dictator but I was certainly surprised to see one of my favorite foods under such monopolistic control.

And one more thing: Murdock was born in 1923, which makes him 92 years old as of this writing. Let’s hope he stays alert and healthy. Wikipedia tells us he’s funded health and longevity research, which is encouraging.

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