- B&G Foods acquired Clabber Girl Corporation for $80 million from wholesale foods supplier Hulman & Company. Clabber Girl has produced name brand baking powder, baking soda and corn starch for 150 years.
- The sale is now complete and B&G said it expects the baking brand to generate approximately $70 to $75 million of net sales annually.
- Clabber Girl also makes Rumford, Davis, Hearth Club and and Royal brands for retail. Royal also provides foodservice with dessert mixes, gelatin, mousse, puddings and pie fillings, and sells coffee through Rex Roasting Co.
It’s no surprise that serial acquirer B&G just added another brand to the fold. As a master of M&A, B&G completed 20 acquisitions from 1997 to 2017 and grew from $129 million to $1.4 billion in net sales — a 985% increase — in just a decade. And it looks like that strategy is continuing to reap rewards. B&G's net sales for its 2017 fiscal year were $1.67 billion, 20% higher than 2016. In 2018, it posted revenue of $1.7 billion.
Although some would say B&G acquisitions are all over the map — from newer brands like Back to Nature to classic ones like Green Giant — there is an unexpected rhyme and reason to the company's approach. B&G targets brands with solid reputations as leaders, which have opportunity left untapped by its current ownership. Its mission is to find those brands, buy them and reinvigorate them.
Clabber Girl clearly fits the bill when it comes to well-known, category-leading brands. B&G CEO Kenneth Romanzi said in the release that the brand is the "No. 1 manufacturer of branded retail baking powder and also holds leadership positions in baking soda and corn starch."
Having a recognizable name brand could prove essential to B&G for creating a big splash when the company reinvents it. But that is likely going to take a lot of imagination and marketing. Fewer people have baking powder and cornstarch on their shelves. Convenience has become a vital consideration for consumers who are looking for ways to feed themselves quickly and nutritiously. In 2015, less than 60% of dinners served at home were actually cooked there, according to NPD Group statistics cited by The Washington Post. This is a drop from 75% home-cooked meals in 1985. This means more meal kits, chopped produce and ready-to-eat meals. This minute-saving trend has the potential to spell disaster for baking companies.
Big companies have been unloading their baking brands in recent years. Conagra Brands signed an agreement to sell its Wesson oil brand to Richardson International and J.M. Smucker Co. sold Pillsbury to Brynwood Partners for $375 million last year.
Regardless of the future of baking brands, it made perfect sense for Hulman & Company to divest Clabber Girl. While Hulman started off as a food and grocery company, the company has pivoted to IndyCar promotion and production. Hulman bought IMS Productions, which focuses on media production for the car racing circuit, in 1945, according to the Indianapolis Star. The sale of Clabber Girl allows Hulman & Company to pursue what President and CEO Mark Miles said in a news release sent to the newspaper was the company's core focus: "the pursuit of world-class motorsports competition and entertainment."
B&G does own several other baking brands, so Clabber Girl already fits in with the company's portfolio. It has two brands of molasses — Grandma's and Brer Rabbit — Baker's Joy cooking spray, and decorating brand Dec-A-Cake.
"We are excited to join the B&G Foods family as we add our iconic Clabber Girl brand to its impressive portfolio of brands consumers both recognize and trust," Clabber Girl President and COO Gary Morris told the Indianapolis Star. "Clabber Girl will benefit from the knowledge and reach B&G Foods will provide as a seasoned food manufacturer and distributor. Together, we will continue to grow this historic business."
Clabber Girl has one advantage that other baking brands don't. The products also can serve as household cleaners. Cornstarch is used as a method to soak up stains from a carpet and baking soda can be employed as an all-purpose deodorizer and scrubbing agent for an assortment of household tasks like laundry and bathrooms.
These natural household cleaners, although not the traditional use of these products, might serve B&G well to appeal to the natural and chemical-free trends that are sweeping the nation. Plus, if B&G can reposition the products, which are already forecast to nearly earn back the purchase price within the year, they could have struck another lucrative deal.