- Snacking company Utz Brands announced it will discontinue the 102-year-old Husman’s snacks brand, which it acquired along with Snyder of Berlin from Conagra in 2019, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. For more than 15 years, Husman’s had been produced in Pennsylvania and sold there and in Ohio. An Utz spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Food Dive that since it has owned the brand, sales have been “steadily declining” in an extremely competitive snack market, and it made the decision based on consumer demand and retailer feedback.
- The spokesperson said that this February, Utz will introduce other snack brands and begin producing new products at the same factory where Husman’s chips were made. The Utz spokesperson noted that the discontinuation of the Husman's brand will not affect its workforce negatively, adding that “we have added positions and plan to add even more.”
- The last several months have been eventful for Utz. Since August 2020, the company was acquired by blank check company Collier Creek Holdings, it went public on the New York Stock Exchange and it has closed on three acquisitions. This latest move further accelerates the company’s portfolio restructuring as it reinvents itself to compete in the competitive snacking category.
Over the past several years, salty snacks have become a particularly popular choice as a meal replacement or in-between meal option, and that pace has only accelerated during the pandemic. A study by The NPD Group found that consumption of salty snacks increased by double digits early in the health crisis. And a Mondelez report from November showed that sales of salty snacks, which includes chips, popcorn and pretzels, jumped 7% between 2019 and 2020.
Utz, with its focus on chips and pretzels, was already positioned to take advantage of this increase in demand, but the newly public company is increasing its chances with consumers by purposefully shaping its portfolio to include trendy offerings.
In September, Utz announced it was buying the H.K. Anderson peanut butter-filled pretzel brand from Conagra Brands for less than $10 million. Two months later, Utz said it was purchasing Truco Enterprises, manufacturer of On The Border tortilla chips, salsa and queso, for $480 million. Then, only two weeks ago, Utz Brands announced its acquisition of Chicago snack brand Vitner’s from Snak-King for $25 million, moving Utz from the No. 7 to No. 4 ranking among salty snacks in Chicago. Last year, CEO Dylan Lissette told Food Dive that Utz is currently the fourth largest salty snack company in the U.S.
But M&A is not the only strategy Utz is using to achieve its goal of developing into one of the largest snacking companies in the country. Utz is also innovating its existing brands. The company debuted Good Health Organic cheese fries and puffs in October to further its better-for-you portfolio. Most recently, Utz has also shown that it is willing to nix underperforming brands, although it has not indicated any plans to retire more.
That said, the move falls in line with a recent report by Credit Suisse, which anticipated that 2021 will feature "a portfolio reshaping revival" in the food sector overall, thanks to an increase in sales from 2020. Analysts noted that rather than making large acquisitions, companies will instead focus on breathing life into old brands and considering divestitures to build a flexible portfolio that responds to emerging consumer trends. Utz is doing just that by retiring an old brand with flagging sales while investing in a generational favorite, Vitner’s, which continues to command popularity in Chicago, one of the largest markets for salty snacks in the U.S.
Having popular brands with a household name status will be important for Utz, which is competing not only against industry snacking powerhouses like PepsiCo, Mondelez and Hershey, but also up-and-comers like Hippeas and Outstanding Foods. As consumers continue to reach for snacks at home and on the go, the category will only attract more attention from CPGs, eager for long-term growth.