Although Sun World allocated considerable time and money for research and development, the company made its most significant progress during the 1980s by acquisitions. After introducing the Divine Ripe tomato in 1986, Sun World acquired the exclusive marketing rights to a seedless watermelon in 1988, striking a deal with Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based American Sun Melon that gave the company a product it renamed Sun World Seedless.

The biggest acquisition of the period occurred at the end of the decade, when the company bought Superior Farming Company, a purchase that gave Sun World more than 40,000 acres of prime central California farmland. For a company looking to distinguish itself as a supplier of branded produce, the acquisition proved ideal. Sun World gained a plant-breeding laboratory near Bakersfield and a fruit-breeding program that gave the company ownership of a wealth of proprietary fruits such as the Superior Seedless table grape, the Amber Crest peach, and the Black Diamond plum, as well as several dozen promising plum, peach, and apricot varieties.