Organic snack food maker files

by Eric Schroeder
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BRISTOL, VA. — Prime Choice Foods, Inc., which offers a complete line of organic, natural and baked items, mainly from corn-based foods, has filed for Chapter 11 protection and retained Heritage Equity Partner to seek a buyer, partner or investor for the family owned and operated snack food manufacturer. Prime Choice develops, produces and packages product for many private labels for several national grocery and specialty retail chains. The company also offers branded products under the Go-Mex, Savory Balance, Los Frescos and Mi Ranchito brands.

Prime Choice Foods operates two locations in Bristol, Va., totaling 108,000 square feet. The main production facility was refurbished and equipped with modern systems and equipment in 2002, including a tortilla chip line capable of producing 1,300 lbs per hour. The second facility produces baked tortilla, pita, bagel and other chips at a rate of 700 lbs per hour, and it also can produce fried chips at 1,300 lbs per hour. The 72,000-square-foot warehouse also is used as the storage and distribution center for the company.

Both plants have undergone numerous certifications, including organic, kosher, gluten-free, HACCP, and SQF Level 2 and earned superior ratings. The company also has the ability to cook corn and process masa flour out of both facilities.

“We are actively pursuing options that will allow our company to not only continue operating, but also to emerge from bankruptcy properly capitalized and well positioned to continue serving customers and working with our vendors,” said Jose Gomez, president of Prime Choice Foods. “The support from both groups has been phenomenal and I believe is a testament to the way we conduct our business. As a family run company, we have deep relationships with the groups we work with, and we are eager to maintain those and see what options are available to us through this process.”

Matt LoCascio, a managing director at Heritage Equity, said Prime Choice is in need of working capital to support growth. The private equity firm will explore several possible scenarios to generate capital, including new money, either debt or equity, a joint venture partner, or a going concern buyer, Mr. LoCascio said.

“Jose and his family have done a tremendous job building this business and have incredibly strong relationships with customers and vendors,” he said. “There are many positives surrounding Prime Choice Foods, and I believe it presents an excellent opportunity for someone to capitalize on efficient capacity, a quality customer base, and market share, with a substantial active bid pipeline, in a growing and high upside industry.”

Heritage Equity Partners, formerly Equity Partners, based in Easton, Md., provides investment banking services and has completed more than 400 engagements throughout the United States since 1988.
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