B&G Foods shying from snacks

by Monica Watrous
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After making four snack acquisitions in the past two years, B&G Foods said it prefers to purchase center-for-the-store grocery brands. 

 

BOCA RATON, FLA. — Take note, Nestle, PepsiCo and General Mills — B&G Foods wants to buy your brands.

The Parsippany, N.J.-based maker of Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Dash and Ortega is on the prowl for portfolio additions with under $100 million in sales.

“The classic acquisition for B&G is what we typically like to do, is buy brands from large food companies, the Krafts, the Pepsis, the Nestles, General Mills, ConAgra,” said Bob Cantwell, chief financial officer and incoming chief executive officer, on Dec. 3 at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Leveraged Finance Conference in Boca Raton. “We bought from them all over the years. They still have a lot of brands that we look at that should be in B&G’s portfolio. We are willing buyers; they need to be willing sellers.

“Right now they haven’t put any of those up on the market. We haven’t been able to get them.”

While many companies are chasing consumers to the perimeter of the supermarket with fresh-focused offerings, B&G Foods prefers to remain in the center of the store. The company’s most recent acquisition, Specialty Brands, which it purchased for $154 million in April, added pancake syrups and dry soup mixes to B&G’s portfolio. Previous transactions since the end of 2012 brought snack brands to the mix, including Pirate’s Booty, New York Style and TrueNorth.

A more troublesome transaction for B&G Foods has been the Rickland Orchards brand of Greek yogurt-enrobed granola bars and bites, which it bought in October 2013 for $57.5 million. Under B&G’s ownership, the products have lost distribution and posted disappointing sales.

“The good news is it was a small acquisition for us,” Mr. Cantwell said. “The bad news is it was a bad acquisition. We are very comfortable center-of-the-store dry grocery. We could do six acquisitions tomorrow at the center-of-the-store dry grocery.…

“The challenge with snacks is when we buy a dry grocery business, typically those brands have been around a long time; many of our brands have been around 100-plus years so they have got legs, they are not going to go anywhere, they generate cash flow. Hopefully we can maximize or do it better, but they are stable.”

Today, snacks represent about 18% of the company’s sales, led by Pirate Brands, which generates more than $80 million. The transaction proved a rare treasure for B&G Foods, which paid a private equity firm $195 million for the company in June 2013.

“For us to venture into snacks, and we will look at snack businesses, but we need to find businesses like a Pirate’s Booty,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Pirate’s Booty has been in existence since the ‘70s, early ‘80s. It has legs; it is not going anywhere. It is a brand that is an identifiable brand to those consumers who buy that.”

Rickland Orchards, conversely, has become a cautionary tale for the company.

“It was not the right acquisition for B&G, so we need to be very careful with snacks,” Mr. Cantwell said. “What makes us really careful with snacks is, today if you look at a snack acquisition, the multiples are way higher than we would ever pay, so it has allowed us to stay away from it.

“We would prefer buying dry grocery brands all day long over snacks.”
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