Brands that may be of particular interest to strategic buyers in the coming year offer products with health attributes, global flavors and convenience, Mr. Clarke said.
“A lot of available assets are family-owned or private equity-owned,” he said. “There are great companies within the private equity world like Noosa, SkinnyPop. There’s a dairy business on the private label side, Aurora Organic Dairy. There are some beef jerky companies out there still privately held. We’ll see.”
Although 2016 is expected to be a busy year for packaged food acquisitions, Mr. Clarke doubts activity will reach recent levels.
“2014 was an unprecedented year for M.&A. activity,” Mr. Clarke said. “I think the total number of deals in the food space totaled around 180. This year (in 2015), we’re probably going to top out at 160. We’ve been on a four- or five-year active run for M.&A. activity in the food space. We continue to stay at this level. It would be hard to surpass this level.
“Multiples over the last four years have gone from 10x EBITDA to a 12.4x average. So, we’re seeing a couple hundred basis points’ increase in multiples and deal levels staying at historic highs.
“We expect 2016 to be good, but even if it comes off a bit, it’s still a great year.”