- Wells Enterprises, which owns Blue Bunny ice cream and other frozen treats, is acquiring the Halo Top brand from Eden Creamery for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to be completed this month.
- Halo Top Founder and CEO Justin Woolverton said in a release that Wells' long-time operational and managerial expertise "will help Halo Top become an even better product and stronger brand." Wells, founded in 1913, said it is the No. 2 ice cream manufacturer in the U.S.
- Mike Wells, CEO of Wells Enterprises, called Halo Top a good fit for the company's portfolio. As part of the acquisition, Wells will also license the Halo Top brand outside the U.S. and Canada to a new company that will be operated by Halo Top President and COO Doug Bouton.
While Eden Creamery was reportedly looking to sell Halo Top for the past couple of years — potentially for as much as $2 billion — Halo Top's CEO showed little interest in the brand getting acquired by a multinational CPG company like Unilever, General Mills or Nestlé. But Woolverton indicated in the release that Wells had succeeded where others may have failed by the way the privately held, family-owned company does business.
"We feel that it's very important that we stay authentic to our fans, and rolling up under a multinational corporation would stifle our voice. It would change who we are," Woolverton told Food Dive in late 2017.
Halo Top's influence in the ice cream market has forced big brands to change their strategy. Unilever's Breyers brand responded to Halo Top's popularity by launching a low-calorie, high-protein line called "Breyers delights" in 2017 featuring labeling and packaging similar to Halo Top. But Breyers still lost 1.5 share points to Halo Top that year. Unilever followed up in 2018 with low-fat, low-calorie products from its Ben & Jerry's brand and, more recently, with its Culture Republick line of probiotic ice cream.
This acquisition isn't Wells Enterprises' first foray into the light ice cream space. Last year, the company introduced Chilly Cow, which has 55% less calories, 70% less fat and 60% less sugar than regular ice cream. But Wells will now have an advantage in the category with Halo Top in its portfolio. The brand seemed to come out of nowhere in 2012 and became the nation's top-selling pint by 2017, touting its low sugar content, high protein level and simple packaging approach of showing the calories on the front of the container.
It is unclear how much Wells is paying for Halo Top, but the Iowa company seems to be on an acquisition spree in order to become the country's leading ice cream maker. Wells also acquired Fieldbrook Foods in April, which gave the company ice cream plants in New York and New Jersey and hiked its production capacity by 25%. Wells told the Sioux City Journal the deal allowed the company to knock Nestlé out of the No. 2 spot for manufacturing, and that replacing Unilever as No. 1 was possible if they were to grow another 20%.
Halo Top may be the ticket that delivers for Wells, as long as sales for both companies continue apace. Wells told the Sioux City Journal that 2018 was a banner year, with the company posting the largest sales growth in its 106-year history. Besides Blue Bunny, Wells makes Bomb Pop, Blue Ribbon Classics and Chilly Cow and has a private-label and co-pack business with five production facilities.
After several years of increasingly impressive performance, competition dropped Halo Top's U.S. retail sales by 6.4% to $329 million from 2017 to 2018, according to IRI figures cited by the Financial Times. However, units sold increased 4% during that same period to $77.5 million.
With Wells' expanding production capacity, marketing expertise and sufficient interest in seeing the Halo Top brand grow, this acquisition could potentially help Wells to get closer to beating out Unilever for the No. 1 spot as the top ice cream manufacturer in the U.S.