- J.M. Smucker announced plans to sell its Crisco oils and shortening business to B&G Foods for about $550 million in cash, the company known for its jams said in a statement. The business generated net sales of approximately $270 million for the fiscal year ended April 30.
- The divestiture aligns with Smucker's previously stated goal to exit the U.S. baking category and focus more of its resources on growing areas such as pet food, coffee and snacking.
- After years of acquisitions, food manufacturers have moved aggressively to invest in fast-growing businesses while divesting operations that are slow growing or that no longer fit with their long-term goals. Few companies have been as active as Nestlé, which has sold its U.S. candy and ice cream businesses and is currently considering the sale of the majority of its North American Nestlé Waters business unit.
As U.S. consumers spend more time cooking at home because of the pandemic, Smucker pounced on an ideal time to sell its Crisco brand while streamlining its business to prioritize growth.
It's noteworthy that just two years ago, Smucker tried to purchase the Wesson oil brand from Conagra Brands. At the time, the Federal Trade Commission said the purchase would give Smucker, which already owned Crisco, 70% or more of the total market for branded canola and vegetable oils at U.S. grocery stores and other retailers. Now, it's exiting the segment altogether.
While the 109-year-old Crisco brand remains as relevant as ever, a sale now gives Smucker additional cash to invest in its current business or to go out and purchase a brand or company to add to the fold.
R5 Capital analyst Scott Mushkin said in an emailed statement that while the divestiture of Crisco was not a surprise given management's prior decision to exit U.S. baking, the company needs to do more to show its decisions are paying off.
"While focusing the business in better categories has merit, we wish these types of strategic moves were more constructive for shareholders," he said.
Few areas in the food and beverage space have seen as much investment and mounting competition in recent years as pet food, coffee and snacking. Everyone from Campbell Soup and Hershey to Nestlé and General Mills are making investments in at least one of these categories.
"Crisco is an iconic brand that is beloved by consumers, and the business has been a solid contributor to our financial performance," Mark Smucker, president and CEO of Smucker, said in a statement. "However, our strategic priorities include an increased focus and allocation of resources toward pet food and pet snacks, coffee, and snacking to maintain momentum in these categories."
For B&G, the purchase provides the serial acquirer with another popular brand to add to its portfolio that includes Green Giant, Ortega and Cream of Wheat. In this case, Crisco will serve to complement its Baker’s Joy nonstick baking spray, Clabber Girl baking powder, Grandma's Molasses and Emeril's sauces and spices. B&G instantly adds to the mix a Crisco brand that is a solid sales generator, has a name immediately recognizable to nearly all consumers and doesn't need much money when it comes to innovating. In a statement about the acquisition, B&G CEO Kenneth Romanzi said it is expected to immediately benefit the company's earnings per share and cash flow.
"Crisco has a strong heritage, as the original all‑vegetable shortening that transformed the way people bake and cook over 100 years ago," Romanzi said in the statement. "Crisco is the number one brand of shortening, the number one brand of vegetable oil and also holds a leadership position in other cooking oils and cooking sprays.”
B&G will have more opportunities to cross-promote its brands. For example, consumers will need baking powder, nonstick baking spray and shortening to make homemade biscuits. B&G will soon be able to offer all three. It also will give the New Jersey company more negotiating power as it works with distributors and retailers to get its offerings into more stores or to have more prominent displays within those establishments.
“We’ve always been a highly acquisitive company,” Bruce Wacha, B&G's CFO, told Food Dive in 2018. “Our early roots in private equity ownership laid the foundation for how we manage as a public company. We have an enduring commitment to delivering, and then with that, a disciplined acquisition strategy.”