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B&G Foods CEO sees latest acquisition as ticket to Whole Foods

September 11, 2017
Food & Drink

The recently announced acquisition of Back to Nature Foods Co. gives B&G Foods, Inc. “a bigger seat at the table,” said Robert C. Cantwell, president and chief executive officer. Many of the products sold under the Back to Nature brand are Non-GMO Project verified or certified organic, expanding B&G Foods’ footprint in the natural channel.

“(It’s) not only grocery accounts that carry this, but their No. 1 customer, for example, is Whole Foods,” Mr. Cantwell said during a Sept. 6 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference. “It sells in Sprouts; it sells in all those outlets and truly gives us a smaller platform that we can kind of continue to grow on. So, we look at this acquisition as a really beginning of us growing in those categories and with those retailers in a much bigger way.”

With $80 million in net sales, Back to Nature Foods Co. is a joint venture between Brynwood and Mondelez, and features the Back to Nature and SnackWell’s brands. Products manufactured under the brands include cookies, cakes, pretzels, popcorn, nuts and trail mix, granola, cereals, soups and juices. B&G Foods agreed to acquire the business for approximately $162.5 million and expects the deal to close in the coming weeks.

“This is a brand that has had steady growth over the last kind of four, five years, growing at kind of 4-ish per cent a year, so it has continued to see growth,” Mr. Cantwell said. “It’s in the right category. It sends a message to consumers this is better for you. This is where we want to be. Some of the products are organic, some are gluten-free, some are G.M.O.-free; it’s a portfolio of better-for-you products, but it’s also a portfolio that sells in those outlets that we have some exposure to with Pirate Brands and a few of our others, but again, gives us a much bigger seat at the table with someone like a Whole Foods, etc.”

Parsippany, N.J.-based B&G Foods has built a reputation as a serial acquirer of branded food businesses, having doubled its size in the past two years with, among others, the acquisition of Green Giant. Today, Green Giant represents 21% of the company’s business, snacks account for 12%, and dry grocery comprises 67%.

“B&G is a business that back in 2014 was $848 million in sales, making about $194 million in EBITDA,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Today, on a pro forma basis, at the midpoint of our guidance with these acquisitions we’ve done the last two years, we’re over $1.7 billion, making $377 million EBITDA. So, a major change to the organization and hopefully more to come as the years go by because we’ve been very active… in acquisitions that we expect to continue.”

Taking Green Giant to new heights

When B&G Foods acquired Green Giant from General Mills in 2015 for approximately $765 million, the brand had been in decline for several years, Mr. Cantwell said.

“And that’s not a typical acquisition for us,” he said. “We typically are looking for businesses that are relatively flat; love them to be up but not in a decline. But this was a great purchase, great price for a brand that we saw some real upside possibilities.”

In the past year, Mr. Cantwell said the company has expanded its market share in the frozen vegetable category with the launch of new Green Giant products, including Riced Veggies, Veggie Tots and Mashed Cauliflower. The brand’s newest platform, Green Giant Veggie Spirals, is set to debut in January. Positioned as a pasta alternative, the products are made with zucchini, butternut squash or carrots.

“We think this is going to be as big, if not bigger, than any of the innovation we launched in September of ’16,” Mr. Cantwell said. “… we are building inventory as we speak of these products and planning for a full-blown launch January 1, so we can meet every demand as this, we believe, will blow out of the freezer case.”

By Monica Watrous

Source: Food Business News

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