REGINA, SASK. – Above Food Corp. has entered into an agreement to acquire Atlantic Natural Foods, Nashville, NC, a manufacturer of plant-based seafood alternatives, prepared foods and egg replacements. Terms were not disclosed, and the transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2022.
Brands manufactured and sold by Atlantic Natural Food include Loma Linda, plant-based meals; Tuno, plant-based seafood; and Neat, an egg replacer. The company’s products are available in more than 22,000 retail locations in 28 countries, according to Above Food Corp.
“Atlantic Natural Foods is very interesting for a number of reasons,” said Martin Williams, president and chief innovation officer of Above Food Corp., in an interview with Food Business News. “It brings to our team a real established branded consumer products company. Each of these brands is already operating at scale. They have owned manufacturing and they’ve solved the issue of unit economics for a center store brand. Their simple meals, for example, are already cost competitive with animal-based counterparts.”
Founded in 2020, Above Food Corp. is a vertically integrated business that produces oats, chickpeas, lentils and fava beans, and has businesses that produce plant-based finished products. Mr. Williams and Lionel Kambeitz, executive chairman and chief executive officer, see significant opportunities in growing the company’s presence in plant-based seafood.
“No one has taken the crown in (plant-based) seafood,” Mr. Kambeitz said. “We have the whole supply chain — the chickpeas and fava beans — to make seafood analogs.”
He added that two issues are driving consumer interest in plant-based seafood.
“The first is unit economics,” Mr. Kambeitz said. “The cost of catching fish, growing fish domestically, is such that the unit economics on all plant-based seafood will be better.
“The second thing is there is a lot of focus on how our oceans are being depleted; how coral reefs are dying and there is too much plastic waste in the ocean. There is a lot of talk about environmental damage to the ocean. That helps the case for plant-based seafood.”
The company plans to capitalize on the current scale of Atlantic Natural’s Tuno brand, which includes varieties of plant-based tuna, and use it to introduce a new brand called New Oceans.
“New Oceans will allow us to be more expansive on use occasions,” Mr. Williams said. “We’ll be bringing both fresh and frozen center plate products to market through New Oceans and Tuno will become a sub brand.”
The current schedule is for the New Oceans market launch to happen in early 2022.
Atlantic Natural Food is not Above Food’s only acquisition this year. The company acquired several businesses earlier this year, including Farmer Direct Organic Foods, a producer of legume proteins and grains that are certified organic; Only Oats, a producer of oats and a manufacturer of consumer products: and Culcherd, a manufacturer of plant-based dairy alternatives.
“The governing thread of our acquisitions is a complete supply chain and complete diversification of the supply chain,” Mr. Kambeitz said. “Farmer Direct and Only Oats are production platforms. Both are brands, but they also are crops.”
Those crops combined with Above Food’s original production platforms form the foundation the company plans to build upon. Management has aggressive expansion plans for Above Food and is in the process of raising between $125 million and $200 million through private equity. Mr. Kambeitz said that funding will be a precursor to an initial public offering or reverse SPAC in the next 12 to 18 months.