Smucker outlines acquisition strategy

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — When it comes to acquisitions, the J.M. Smucker Co. is taking a “focused and disciplined approach,” with the belief that over time, “attractive brands and businesses will come to the market.” That was one of the key takeaway points delivered by Richard Smucker, chief executive officer of the Orrville, Ohio-based company, in opening remarks at the Barclays Back to School Conference held Sept. 3 in Boston.

Mr. Smucker said the company’s “acquisition filter” focuses on a number of critical components, beginning with whether the target is a strategic fit. To determine whether a company or brand is a fit, he said Smucker evaluates several things: Does it provide Smucker with a leading brand? Is it in an attractive category? Does it have a center-of-the-store presence? Is it North America-focused?

Once confirmed as a strategic fit, Mr. Smucker said the target then is analyzed to determine if there are opportunities for synergies where Smucker can leverage go-to-market supply chain capabilities. The company also looks to determine whether a potential acquisition will deliver financial metrics that are accretive in the first year or two.

Acquisitions are characterized as one of three types at Smucker: transformational; bolt-on; or enabling. The company recently made an enabling acquisition with the purchase of Enray, Inc., and its flagship brand, truRoots, Mr. Smucker said.

“Enabling acquisitions, while typically smaller in size, present opportunities for new products, capabilities and technologies as well as capitalizing on our current resources,” he explained. “Enray is a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium organic gluten-free ancient grain products. TruRoots brand provides us with an on-trend compelling product platform across the rapidly growing gluten-free market. This acquisition significantly increases the breadth of our existing natural foods business.

“Currently, we have a leadership position in the organic and natural beverage categories with our R.W. Knudsen family and Santa Cruz Organic brands. The (Enray) acquisition is expected to add sales in excess of $50 million on an annual basis, increasing the scale of our natural foods and specialty businesses, which currently generates approximately $170 million in sales. We are excited about the growth prospects of this business as we integrate it into our marketing, sales and distribution organizations.”

Overall, Mr. Smucker said mergers and acquisitions have picked up significantly over the past 12 months, and multiples have been increasing — a trend he said he expects to continue.

He also acknowledged that competition for assets is likely to increase, but Smucker remains confident in its ability to identify and complete transactions that are necessary to meet the company’s top-line growth activities.

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