Hain Celestial buys out H.P.P.

by Eric Schroeder
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LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. — Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has paid $40 million for the remaining 51.3% interest in Hain Pure Protein Corp. (H.P.P.) that it did not already own from an affiliate of Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P. H.P.P. is an antibiotic-free and organic poultry company that offers a full range of fresh and frozen FreeBird chicken and Plainville Farms turkey and private label products in the United States. The transaction also included a 19% interest in Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc.

Hain established H.P.P. in 2005 as a joint venture with private equity group Pegasus. Irwin Simon, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Hain Celestial, said H.P.P. has grown double digits over the past four years, with EBITDA up more than 28% on a compound annual growth rate basis. The company now generates more than $200 million in annual sales, he said.

“What Hain Pure Protein does is really offers an opportunity to get more and more into the fresh category,” Mr. Simon said during a July 17 conference call with analysts to discuss the transaction. “FreeBird chicken has fresh chicken, has branded chicken, has frozen meal — or not frozen meals, frozen nuggets, wings, burgers, etc. Plainville Farms also has its fresh turkey, also has deli products. And the turkey business, from a burger to a breast to ground turkey, is actually one of the fastest-growing categories within the protein category.”

Mr. Simon said the transaction also made sense in light of a number of broader industry trends, including baby boomers growing concern with animal welfare and increasing consumer demand for more protein.

“This opens the door from a distribution system to really bring Hain into a lot of other categories in the fresh category, and us having the distribution system out there,” he said. “We’ve expanded outside the natural channel. We’ve gone into the mass market.”

Mr. Simon said Hain’s sales and marketing teams have ramped up discussions with the H.P.P. sales team to explore opportunities.

“One of the biggest opportunities, as we sat and looked at this here, today you can walk into certain white tablecloth restaurants and other dining experiences and find FreeBird on the menu or find Plainville on the menu, and not find other Hain products,” he explained. “Those that are familiar in New York City with Chopped or Panera, they are all outlets that sell Hain Pure Protein. But what an opportunity to sell other Hain products. So what will happen now is our retail group — or the group from Hain Pure Protein — will take over selling into food service of all Hain’s products. You’ve heard what I said before: wherever there is a cash register, I want to sell Hain products. A big opportunity, to sell products into college campuses and other food service accounts.”

In fiscal 2014, H.P.P. is expected to generate more than $230 million in net sales and is expected to be accretive to Hain Celestial’s earnings in fiscal 2015 by 3c to 5c per diluted share.

Jay Lieberman, chief operating officer of H.P.P., will continue to be responsible for day-to-day operations of H.P.P., which will be a separate operating company reporting to Mr. Simon. Ted Maguire, senior vice-president of sales for H.P.P., now will be responsible for expanding Hain Celestial’s products into the food service channel currently served by H.P.P.
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