WhiteWave Foods 'busting at the seams'

by Keith Nunes
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Recent product launches include a revamped line of Silk branded yogurt.

DENVER — WhiteWave Foods is on a roll. Not only did the company issue robust earnings on Feb. 12, but executives also highlighted several innovative new product initiatives and plans to build a new research and development facility to support future growth.

New product launches scheduled during the year include cashew milk and ice cream, a revamped line of Silk branded yogurt, and frozen fruit and vegetable blends from the company’s recently acquired Earthbound Farm business. The new R.&D. plant is intended to alleviate pressure that has been building as WhiteWave Foods has grown and expanded through acquisition. The company currently leases a plant for its R.&D. efforts, but it has proven to be inadequate.

“Frankly, we just needed a bigger facility, and we needed a greater ability to actually produce and manufacture product innovations in the R.&D. facility rather than trying to do it in a plant that was trying to run as hard as it could to satisfy the demand that we were experiencing in the marketplace,” said Gregg Engles, chairman and chief executive officer, in a conference call with securities analysts on Feb. 12. “We will have greater capabilities in this facility. We’ll be able to test and develop products across a broader range of categories. But frankly, we’re just busting at the seams in terms of where we were and we needed more.”

The company also is introducing new frozen fruit and vegetable blends from the company's recently acquired Earthbound Farm business.

For the year ended Dec. 31, 2014, WhiteWave Foods earned $140,185,000, equal to 81c per share on the common stock, and an increase compared with the previous year when net income equaled $99,041,000, or 57c per share.

Sales also increased to $3,436,605,000 in fiscal 2014 as compared with fiscal 2013 when sales totaled $2,503,487,000.

“In summary, 2014 was a great year for WhiteWave,” Mr. Engles said. “Beyond delivering on these very strong financial results, we completed two highly strategic acquisitions, Earthbound Farm and So Delicious. We launched several new and innovative products, successfully expanded our brands into new categories, built new plants in China and Dubois, Pa., and launched Silk plant-based beverages in China.”

Mr. Engles described the company’s cashew milk beverages as providing a milk-like creaminess and taste, but being lower in calories and fat.

“This new innovation further expands our leadership in the nut-based department category,” he said. “We are also expanding our commitment to plant-based foods with the re-launch of our Silk dairy-free yogurts. We have significantly upgraded both the formulation and packaging of silk yogurts and for the first time are producing these yogurts ourselves at our newly commissioned the Dubois, Pa., facility.

“We're taking a measured approach to building Silk yogurt distribution while we ramp up production to ensure that we maintain the highest quality. We are excited about the potential of dairy free yogurts in the United States based upon the success we have experienced with our plant-based yogurts in Europe and the quality of the products we are now producing.”

The company also announced a reorganization of its business units. There are now three within the WhiteWave organization, including Americas Food and Beverage, which includes its North American platforms, including plant-based foods and beverages, dairy and coffee creamers and beverages, the Europe Food and Beverage segment, and the Americas Fresh Foods segment, which will include Earthbound Farm and other fresh foods aspects of the company. Leading each business unit will be Blaine McPeak, America’s Food and Beverage; Kevin Yost, America’s Fresh Foods; and Bernard Deryckere, Europe Food and Beverage.
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