After a seven-year run with a private equity group transformed it from a family-owned agricultural concern into one of the country’s fastest-growing juice companies, Bolthouse Farms has been sold to Campbell Soup Co. for just over $1.5 billion.
In addition to its juice portfolio, which has powered Bolthouse’s rise in the beverage world, the company also makes salad dressings and fresh carrots. The company was famously able to use its connections with supermarket produce buyers to help it grab space in the produce section alongside more established brands like Naked, Pom and Odwalla, and created a broad portfolio that included a wholly-owned and operated acai plant in Brazil in addition to its initial carrot juice mixes.
Campbell’s said today that it plans to allow Bolthouse to continue to operate as a separate unit, which will include keeping President and CEO Jeff Dunn on board.
Campbell’s has shown significant growth in its own juice business via its V8 portfolio at a time when its core soup offerings have struggled; the company said that Bolthouse had reported sales of $689 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, including earnings before interest and taxes of $92 million.
“Bolthouse is a great strategic fit with Campbell,” Denise M. Morrison, Campbell’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Its business platforms, capabilities and culture are well aligned with the core growth strategies we announced last year.
Skinny Secures Financing
“Our objective is to align the Company’s cost structure with its operating resources and position the Company for profitable revenue generation,” said Mick Fleming, the company’s new board chair.
Meissner joined Jones in April, 2010, leaving Talking Rain, where he had also been CEO. He had immediately taken to the road to try to rebuild faith in the brand’s national DSD network.
Under Meissner, the company had slashed several underperforming members of the brand family, including Naturals, Organics, 24C and Gaba, along with many Jones Soda varieties, instead focusing the company behind its best selling Jones Soda SKUs and trying to revive the company’s energy drink fortunes behind the WhoopAss line, which was re-branded with a more masculine, exercise-oriented image. In the spring, Jones attempted to move back into the natural channel via the launch of Jones au Naturel, a line of fortified natural CSDs with fiber and stevia.
“The products are great, the employees are phenomenal and over the last 24 months we built a solid distribution network able to service all channels of trade,” Meissner said of Jones and its future.
Core Power Enters Coke System
Beyond that, however, two well-placed sources within Coke indicate that Core Power is a likely target as the next outside investment from the company’s Venturing and Emerging Brands Group, which is charged with helping develop entrepreneurial companies into potential “billion dollar brands.”
Publicly, the group doesn’t discuss its investment strategy, but Jones has strong boosters within the organization; VEB President Deryck van Rensburg even went so far as to comment on the distribution arrangement in the press release that announced it, calling the brand “part of an exciting category for consumers and retailers that is still in the early stage of its growth potential.”
The release even goes so far as to say that van Rensburg views the arrangement as a great example of how Coke joins in helping to develop new, next-generation beverage brands.
The plan for the product is to go with supermarket and large-format chains through the end of the year, at which point the brand will start to look to convenience and other potential retail channels, according to Anders Porter, who is the spokesman for Fair Oaks Farms Brands.
The brand grew out of an opportunity fostered by the capacity of the 87 family-owned farms in the two co-ops, Select Milk Producers and Continental Dairy Products. Jones was working as head of a product development role at Select Milk Producers until last year, when he suggested rearranging the corporate structure to create a new product line based around the growing awareness of whey protein.