The owner of Atkins Nutritionals is going on a diet of its own.
Private-equity firm Roark Capital Group, which owns Atkins, is gearing up to seek a buyer for the low-carbohydrate-diet pioneer, according to people familiar with the matter. The Denver company could fetch more than $1 billion in a sale, one of the people said. There is no guarantee a sales process will result in a deal.
Atkins was founded in 1989 by cardiologist Robert Atkins, who created one of the first mainstream diets focused on high-protein foods. In the early 2000s, the Atkins diet prompted many adherents to eschew bread, grains and sugar in favor of meats, other sources of protein and higher-fat diets—a regimen that remains popular today. Dr. Atkins died in 2003.
Atkins generates revenue from books and food it sells to promote its namesake diet. The company sells protein bars, frozen meals and shakes at retailers including Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Americans have tailored the way they eat to incorporate facets of the program into their diets. To capitalize on changing tastes, mainstream food companies have been buying protein companies at a rapid clip. Last year, Hormel Foods Corp. purchased Muscle Milk maker CytoSport Holdings Inc. Tyson Foods Inc. paid $7.8 billion for Hillshire Brands Co., which makes Jimmy Dean sausages.
Roark bought Atkins in 2010 for an undisclosed sum. The company had changed hands a number of times already, with private-equity firm North Castle Partners LLC paying $100 million to buy it in 2007, a few years after Atkins had filed for bankruptcy. It is unclear who might be interested in buying Atkins this time around, but auctions of such companies typically draw private-equity firms and other industry players.
Atlanta-based Roark specializes in consumer, business-services and environmental-services investments. The buyout firm, an investor in brands including Anytime Fitness LLC and Wingstop Restaurants Inc., last month announced it raised $2.5 billion for its fourth fund.
By Dana Mattioli