B&G Foods hungry for more acquisitions

by Keith Nunes
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Robert Cantwell, B&G Foods
Robert C. Cantwell, president and c.e.o. of B&G Foods, said he sees more acquisitions and a business approaching $2 billion to $5 billion in sales in the future.
BOSTON — As Robert C. Cantwell, president and chief executive officer of B&G Foods, Inc., Parsippany, N.J., looks at the future of his company in 5 or 10 years, he sees more acquisitions and a business approaching $2 billion to $5 billion in sales. The company is generating $1.4 billion in sales and is in the process of rebooting the Green Giant frozen food business, which was acquired from General Mills, Inc., this past September.
 
“We expect this organization to be way bigger,” Mr. Cantwell said June 1 during a presentation at the RBC Capital Markets Consumer Retail Conference taking place in Boston. “We expect our 45 or so brands to become 70 or 80. We’re an acquisition model. We’re a manager of brands. We’re a branded retail business. That’s who we are.”

The challenge facing Mr. Cantwell and his management team is the ebb and flow of acquisition opportunities, he said.

B&G Foods Pirate's Booty
Mr. Cantwell said Pirate’s Booty is the “highest growing brand” outside of Green Giant.

“I think everybody’s got different challenges,” Mr. Cantwell said. “You look at Kraft, for example, and I personally question whether they’re going to sell something tomorrow because I think the 3G model is about let’s consolidate … let’s cut costs. This is who we are. I don’t have the time and attention span to worry about selling some small brands.” 

He added that B&G Foods “would love” to acquire some of the smaller brands owned by PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y.

On the snacks acquisition front, Mr. Cantwell differentiated between the types of businesses B&G Foods may be interested in.

“… Some of those brands around like a Pirate’s Booty, and there’s a lot of them would fit us perfectly,” he said. “What’s not right for B&G is to go after kind of a start-up brand like we did with Rickland Orchards, because that was an entrepreneurial business that really needed those individual owner entrepreneurs to drive that business and consolidating it into a food company with 45 plus brands created all kinds of challenges, and we did not do well with that.”

B&G Foods Rickland Orchards
Rickland Orchards makes Greek-yogurt coated granola bars and bites.

The company acquired the Pirate’s Booty brand in 2013. The product line includes baked rice and corn puffs snack-type products. Since the acquisition, the company has expanded the snack line and extended the brand’s reach into such other categories as macaroni and cheese. Rickland Orchards, on the other hand, a maker of Greek-yogurt coated granola bars and bites, was acquired by the company in 2012. The brand struggled to gain traction and in 2014 B&G Foods had written off most of the business.

Within the company’s portfolio, Mr. Cantwell said Pirate’s Booty is the “highest growing brand” outside of Green Giant.

“… It has a lot of potential with just driving distribution,” he said. “So, we are very interested in buying other snack brands to grow … We’re the guys who can drive distribution because that’s who we are and really drive that business across the country and make sure it’s distributed where it needs to be.”

With the Green Giant acquisition, Mr. Cantwell said there are multiple opportunities with the business, most notably restoring it.

B&G Foods Green Giant
B&G has plans to restore its recently acquired Green Giant brand.

“One thing is you can thank the former owners for losing so much sales that some of this growth is — we believe is easy for us to get back,” he said. “We’re going to support this brand in a big way and we’ve created a lot of innovation that hasn’t been created on Green Giant for a whole bunch of years.”

Beyond frozen vegetables, Mr. Cantwell said there are opportunities to license the brand.

“We’ve got this unique iconic figure that allows us the license to sell commodity vegetables more than anybody else,” he said. “And that iconic figure is what we are going to awaken here and really drive this business where nobody else has that. Our competitors do not have that ability and that brand identity.”

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