Gary Rodkin, chief executive officer of ConAgra Foods, Inc., has said he would like to see the company achieve “top-tier” status in the next five years. To achieve his goal, Omaha-based ConAgra Foods is going to attempt to leverage core adjacencies, grow its international presence and expand in private label.
ConAgra extended its core frozen food adjacencies in July 2012 when it acquired Unilever’s North American frozen meals business for $265 million. The acquired businesses include the Bertolli’s and P.F. Chang’s brands, and the business unit had annual sales of approximately $300 million in 2011.
“We’ll use our extensive frozen food and innovation capabilities to grow these great brands even further,” Mr. Rodkin said at the time of the acquisition. “Just as our acquisition earlier this calendar year of Odom’s Tennessee Pride extended our reach into frozen breakfasts, the addition of Bertolli and P.F. Chang’s brands can bring us new consumers and new eating occasions.”
ConAgra acquired Odom’s, a sausage and breakfast sandwich manufacturer, in April. The Odom’s acquisition was designed to strengthen ConAgra’s position in the frozen breakfast category.
ConAgra Foods has a robust frozen food business featuring the Banquet, Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s brands. The Unilever frozen meals and the Odom’s acquisitions allow the company to expand into new dayparts within the frozen category.
While ConAgra is “not looking to plant flags everywhere,” as Mr. Rodkin said this past May when speaking to the Citi Global Consumer Conference in New York, the company is hoping to double the size of its international business, which currently accounts for about 11% of its business. ConAgra has a strong position in India (through Agro Tech Foods Ltd.), Mexico (led by the company’s Act II popcorn brand), and in Canada, where the company acquired Del Monte Canada in March 2012.
But Mr. Rodkin said the biggest growth in the company’s global footprint is likely to come from its Lamb Weston business. Lamb Weston is the largest potato business in North America and the second-biggest globally. Growth, Mr. Rodkin said, will occur in developing markets.
Private label also remains a category of focus for ConAgra Foods despite the company’s failed attempt to acquire Ralcorp Holdings in 2011. In November 2011, ConAgra Foods acquired the National Pretzel Co., Lancaster, Pa., and, as Mr. Rodkin said at the Citi conference, “When we bought the National Pretzel Co. — which is by far the biggest player on the private label side of the pretzel category — it wasn’t so that we could have a cheaper version of Rold Gold pretzels, that’s a piece of the business,” he explained. “The real reason we bought it is because of their technology that they developed, which some of you may have had, peanut butter filled pretzels, which you can find at a number of retailers like a Trader Joe’s or a Costco.”
Still another ConAgra acquisition in 2012 was its May purchase of Kangaroo Brands’ pita chip business for $20 million. Based in Milwaukee, the business is considered a leader in the private label pita chip category. In announcing the acquisition, Mr. Rodkin noted that the transaction further cements ConAgra’s position in the private label snacks business.
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