NEW YORK — A “broader and bigger acquisition agenda” is a key component of the growth strategy at McCormick & Co., Inc. Having completed 12 acquisitions and joint ventures since 2007, the Sparks, Md.-based company has a “robust pipeline” of acquisitions with “a consistent focus on flavor,” said Lawrence Kurzius, president and chief executive officer.
McCormick’s acquisition agenda is “broader in the sense of considering industrial targets now for the first time in a couple of decades, and bigger in the sense of the many bolt-on acquisitions that we’ve done in the past don’t move the needle quite as much as they used to, simply because we’re bigger,” Mr. Kurzius said during a June 3 presentation at the Sanford C Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York.
McCormick is targeting businesses where “flavor and health intersect and extend our current footprint with healthy flavors and great brands, value-added higher-margin industrial businesses, some larger businesses in addition to bolt-on opportunities, and acquisitions that build scale where we currently have presence in developed and emerging markets,” Mr. Kurzius said.
Many of McCormick’s deals in the past decade were struck to establish a presence in new markets. Going forward, Mr. Kurzius said the company plans to increase its scale and improve its financial return where it already operates.
The latest addition to McCormick’s portfolio is Gourmet Garden, a global market leader in chilled, packaged herbs with annual sales of more than $50 million.
|Lawrence Kurzius, president and c.e.o. of McCormick|
“We anticipate continued double-digit sales growth for these products that offer consumers a convenient flavor alternative to fresh herbs,” Mr. Kurzius said. “Importantly, these closer-to-fresh products are shelved with produce and allow us to participate in this highly trafficked perimeter department.”
Gourmet Garden had been nibbling into McCormick’s market share prior to the acquisition, Mr. Kurzius said, “So we just acquired that brand.”
Earlier this year, McCormick offered to acquire Premier Foods P.L.C., St. Albans, the United Kingdom, a manufacturer of sweet goods, cooking sauces, flavors and seasonings, and soups. Premier rejected the overture, claiming McCormick’s proposed purchase price undervalued the company, and McCormick ultimately withdrew its bid.
“I will say what attracted us to Premier are the same kind of things that would attract us to any target,” Mr. Kurzius said. “Roughly two-thirds of their portfolio was flavor business that fits squarely in what we see is our core business: beloved, iconic brands … and they had been underleveraged through marketing support. Premier has a lot of debt. They have a heavy pension obligation that has not allowed them to make the kind of investments behind brands that we believe could drive growth. So we saw an opportunity there to take some fantastic brands, put marketing support behind them and grow them.”
McCormick also saw the opportunity to grow some of Premier’s brands globally and to add scale to its business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Mr. Kurzius said.“On the other hand, we are not going to sacrifice our financial discipline,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of smaller acquisitions. We’ve had great discipline around those and have about an 80% track record of success in integrating and earning a return on those investments, and we don’t want to sacrifice that financial discipline. We just found that we couldn’t come to terms with the target that would allow us to make the kind of return that we wanted and meet their shareholder needs. So we kept to that discipline, and walked away.”