BOSTON — In a Sept. 7 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston, Dylan Lissette, chief executive officer of Utz Brands, Inc. discussed Utz’s transition to a publicly traded company, its growth through acquisitions and its recent expansion into the Southeast.
“I think we’ve done incredibly well over the last two years to differentiate ourselves as a company that’s gone public,” Mr. Lissette said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve done a lot of acquisitions.”
Citing IRI consumption data for August, he said Utz Brands has a $1.5 billion retail salty snacks business. Utz’s platform of brands currently holds the No. 3 spot in the United States, he said.
“We did get there through a decade’s worth of M&A,” Mr. Lissette said. As an example, he highlighted the December 2020 acquisition of On The Border brand tortilla chips, salsa and queso.
“We’ve really been able to take that brand, especially in our core and grow it tremendously,” he said. “We’ve expanded it into food and grocery. So that’s a $22 million IRI retail sales every 12 weeks category. That was up 50%.”
As to the company’s M&A strategy going forward, Mr. Lissette said the company does not plan to be as aggressive in the near term.
“What we’re doing is working on all of the things that will drive margins, that will drive top-line sales,” he said. “We don’t need as much M&A perhaps now that we’ve sort of got this critical mass of where we are.
“But that being said, we are a natural consolidator... And all of the things that are good about M&A, we have a good track record for it. So we’re always going to be looking for what type of strategic opportunities exist.”
Commenting on Utz’s recent expansion into the Southeast through Publix markets, Mr. Lissette said the company has seen growth rates in Florida in the 60% to 70% range over the last 4- and 12-week periods.
“That’s a huge market where our base of consumer comes from the Mid-Atlantic, to the Southeast and moves into that area or travels down there for holidays,” Mr. Lissette said. “The brand resonates. There’s not been a market that we’ve gone into and we haven’t gotten to a point of a No. 4, a No. 3 and eventually a No. 2 position.
“Case in point, we came to Boston in 2004. So that’s almost 18 years ago. If anybody in the room is from the Boston area and you have a kid who’s 16 or 17, I guarantee that they think Utz has been here forever.”
Ajay Kataria, chief financial officer of Utz Brands, said the company gained distribution into 800 Publix stores.
“Now we have shelf space,” Mr. Kataria said. “We should be able to bring out a decent velocity per store. We’ll see the full Q3 what that looks like. But it’s meaningful.”
Even more meaningful is the self-servicing distribution network gained through Publix, he said.“I think if you look at our core markets, we have low double-digit market share, and Florida is nowhere close to that,” Mr. Kataria said. “And as Dylan mentioned, a lot of the consumer base is very similar between the Northeast and the Florida markets. So, we think that is the opportunity set.”