ST. LOUIS – Benson Hill, Inc. on Jan. 4 announced the acquisition of ZFS Creston, LLC, an established food grade white flake and soy flour manufacturing operation in southwest Iowa for approximately $102 million, primarily financed through a new debt facility. The investment fulfills a final step in Benson Hill’s ability to convert its proprietary soybeans into value-added soy protein ingredients for the underserved human and pet food categories.
“The acquisition of ZFS Creston, combined with our proprietary Ultra-High Protein soybean varieties, positions Benson Hill to deliver a portfolio of improved ingredients as an innovative unlock to bottlenecks in the rapidly growing but capacity-constrained plant-based movement,” said Matt Crisp, chief executive officer of Benson Hill. “This acquisition advances our integrated business model as a more efficient route to market with a smaller footprint that better aligns with consumer preferences, enabling us to harness the genetic potential of plants and help scale the growth of plant-based markets.”
The company said the exploding demand for soy-based protein ingredients is outpacing supply, suggesting the need to build additional concentrate and isolate processing facilities. This traditional approach would take massive investment, years to build and perpetuate a commodity-based, asset-heavy, siloed approach to food production.
Benson Hill said its technology and integrated approach increases protein expression in the soybean plant itself, so that the need for additional processing is reduced. Capacity and capabilities acquired through ZFS Creston will enable the company to immediately deliver a portfolio of better-from-the-beginning non-GMO ingredients that are less processed, more sustainable, identity-preserved, traceable and domestically sourced.
The Creston operation is equipped to produce soy meal and oil, as well as food-grade soy white flake, flour, and grits, which can be marketed as ingredients or used as raw material for further production of concentrates, isolates and textured protein products. Acquiring the soy white flake capacity of Creston in lieu of building the capacity through capex investment positions Benson Hill to immediately offer more sustainable ingredients within the broad human food market, which includes plant-based meat, meat extension, bakery, cereal and snack, fermentation and the pet food market, the company said. Further, Benson Hill’s identity preservation program leverages deep farmer relationships to provide traceable and more sustainable ingredients for both existing and new customers. The Creston facility is also geographically complementary to Benson Hill’s soy crushing facility acquired last year in Seymour, Ind.
“The Creston operation is expected to accelerate commercialization through the immediate ability to produce our ingredient portfolio,” said Bruce Bennett, president, Ingredients, at Benson Hill. “The investment also enables deeper insight to customer preferences as we deliver much-needed innovation in other high-value food ingredients in the future. ZFS Creston is an established protein supplier with a respected and knowledgeable team on-site. We’re thrilled to welcome them to Benson Hill.”
In connection with the transaction, Benson Hill secured a $100 million committed debt facility, with the potential to access an incremental $20 million. The financing was led by Avenue Capital Group, which includes the Avenue Sustainable Solutions Fund, Avenue Venture Opportunities Fund, and other Avenue Global Funds. The company used $80 million of this new facility to finance the purchase price of the Creston acquisition with the remaining amount of the purchase price sourced from cash on hand and approximately $5 million of seller financing.