Wind Point Partners acquires Gehl Foods

by Eric Schroeder
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Gehl's cheese sauces are used in more than 200,000 movie theaters, concession stands, convenience stores and restaurants in the United States each day.

GERMANTOWN, WIS. — Private equity firm Wind Point Partners has acquired Gehl Foods, a producer and distributor of shelf stable, aseptic dairy products, including cheese sauces, puddings, and nutritional and protein beverages. Financial terms were not disclosed.

As part of its acquisition, Wind Point Partners said it will bring on a new leader. Eric Beringause, who previously was chief executive officer of Sturm Foods, has been named c.e.o. of Gehl. He also is the former c.e.o. of private label bottler Advanced Refreshment, L.L.C. in Seattle. He succeeds Katherine Gehl, who returned to the company full-time in 2007 and succeeded her father John and her brother Andy as president and c.e.o. in 2011. Ms. Gehl will continue as a member of the board of directors.

Over the past seven years, Gehl Foods’ sales have increased almost 80%, to nearly $250 million, and the company has added more than 100 jobs, the company said. Investments in new technologies during that time have exceeded $100 million, and both product innovation and the new business pipeline have reached all-time highs.

“Wind Point’s investment in Gehl Foods reflects our belief in the company’s continued growth potential following the outstanding track record and significant investments in technology and people under Katherine Gehl’s leadership,” said David Stott, principal at Wind Point Partners. “We plan to continue to invest in the operations in both Germantown and West Bend (Wis.), and we look forward to working with the entire team at Gehl Foods.”

Gehl Foods was founded in 1896 and now employs more than 330 people at its three Germantown facilities and its West Bend, Wis., bottle-making operation. All four facilities are included in the sale. Gehl’s cheese sauces are used in more than 200,000 movie theaters, concession stands, convenience stores and restaurants in the United States each day.

“With its competitiveness substantially improved, Gehl Foods has tremendous prospects,” Ms. Gehl said. “To maximize its potential, the company must accelerate its growth. Wind Point has the capacity to deploy the technology and capital to take Gehl Foods to the next level.

“The move will allow Gehl Foods to respond even more effectively to customer needs and to strengthen its position in national markets. The move is also positive for our employees because they will be able to take advantage of greater opportunities as the company advances in the marketplace.”

Mr. Beringause said that beyond the financial and operating appeal Gehl Foods offers, there is substantial alignment on non-financial attributes.

“Wind Point is a big believer in safety and quality first, transparency, and individual performance,” he said. “Those are assets that Gehl Foods has in ample supply ,and they are ideal platforms for growth. The Gehl family has done a fantastic job positioning Gehl Foods for continued success. I am excited about the opportunity to lead the company into its next phase of growth.”

Mr. Beringause has experience in the food industry as a product innovator, channel marketing expert and operations chief. His background includes roles at industry leading companies, including Nestle, Nabisco, Pillsbury, Grist Mill/ConAgra and Alcoa.

Wind Point Partners is a private equity investment firm that has raised $2.8 billion in commitments since 1984. Last year, Wind Point, through its Shearer’s business, acquired the private label snack business from Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., Charlotte, N.C., for $430 million, and the Medallion Foods business from ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha, for $33.5 million. Medallion is a manufacturer of snack chips and extruded snacks items. Wind Point also has owned Nonni’s, a specialty cracker and cookie baker, since 2011.
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