Slideshow: Third-quarter M.&A. trends and highlights.

KANSAS CITY — As the industry prepares for a consumer comeback, food and beverage companies continue to reshape portfolios.

“I think a lot of the underlying trends in the industry have been the same trends over the last few quarters,” said Matthew O’ Loughlin, partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, L.L.P., who counsels public and private companies, investors and private equity groups in the food and beverage industry. “We are seeing a continuing trend in food and beverage and other consumer industries toward focusing on core brands and divisions. Whenever you have that situation, there are often opportunities to offload a particular underperforming or non-core brand or division to a willing buyer who attributes more value to the asset than the seller due to the buyer’s strategic plan or platform — it can be a classic M.& A. win-win situation.”

Merger and acquisition activity in the third quarter echoed trends from previous quarters, including a continued focus on health and wellness and snacks, as well as a pattern of divesting non-core brands.

“With the summer lull and all the events in Washington, D.C., it’s not surprising that deal activity in the quarter didn’t accelerate, but it certainly wasn’t a bad quarter,” Mr. O’Loughlin said. “It was pretty flat from Q2.”

Expect a continuation of “consistent, sustained, slowly building” activity, he said.  

“I think as people get comfortable on the unemployment numbers and other economic indicators trending positive, even in a low-growth environment, we will see some strengthening in M.&A. activity,” he said. “If the consumer sector does slowly but surely improve in 2014, it may highlight some shortcomings in certain lagging businesses and create some momentum for the acquisition of underperforming businesses.”

Click for a slideshow of the top acquisition trends and highlights in the third quarter.