BevScape Business

Bolthouse Bought by Campbell Soup Co.

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

Skinny found a fat wallet in the form of a sale of $9 million in preferred and common stock to investment firm Trim Capital, as well as a $6 million line of credit extended by Trim.Trim will eventually own 65 percent of the common stock of Skinny Water.“The investment Trim Capital is making in Skinny Water will give the Company the capital to execute its growth plan.  Having access to this capital will allow us to accelerate our marketing and brand initiatives, add new product lines under the Skinny Nutritional Corp. umbrella of Skinny trademarks and build inventory levels to satisfy the demand for our products,”  said Michael Salaman, CEO of Skinny Nutritional Corp.Trim Capital LLC’s Managing Partner, Marc Cummins states “Skinny Water is exactly the type of investment we look for – one with the perfect combination of a solid consumer proposition, a healthy distribution system and a robust product pipeline that will continue to deliver great-tasting and healthy products to the marketplace.”


CEO Leaves Jones Soda

Bill Meissner, the CEO of Jones Soda, the Seattle-based brand CSD brand that has long been a youth favorite for its inventive flavors, creative, user-generated packaging and unconventional attitude, has resigned following a series of disagreements with the publicly-traded company’s board of directors.Leaving with Meissner were board chair Richard Eisworth and CFO James Stapleton. Meissner was replaced as CEO by Jennifer Cue, a former CFO and COO at Jones who rejoined the board in this year after leaving in 2005.Cue is the company’s fifth CEO in five years.“It really just boiled down to strategic differences and how we viewed the business, its opportunities and challenges,” Meissner told BevNET. “It’s really important for a company to be aligned from the top down.   Without this, execution becomes very difficult.  The separation of the chairman, our CFO and me really allows the company to go forward with alignment on its view of the business and the strategy from the board all the way through the new management team.The company is expected to slash spending in an attempt to consolidate the gains it had made in rebuilding the Jones brand behind its core offerings. Cue has long been regarded as one of the key employees who assisted the company’s rise under founder Peter van Stolk, although she left soon after van Stolk as the public company’s share price began to flag.

“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

Coca-Cola Refreshments has agreed to begin distributing Core Power, a milk-based protein drink manufactured with the product of two large dairy co-ops based in West Texas, New Mexico, and the Midwest.Core Power — owned by parent company Fair Oaks Farms Brands, Inc., which operates out of a 30-person office in Chicago — is run by former Coca-Cola Co. CMO Steve Jones, best known as the man who helped tie Coke to the hit television phenomenon “American Idol.”Core Power, which is lactose-free and boasts between 20 and 26 grams of whey protein in 11.5 oz. bottles, is shelf-stable, giving it the potential to sit for up to nine months without going bad. The 5-SKU product employs monkfruit and stevia in a 150-calorie version that has 20 grams of protein, while the full-calorie version can hit 240 calories and 25 g of protein.Long range plans are to take Core Power national, according to the company. The initial plan, beginning in July, is for CCR to take over the bulk of the distribution of Core Power in Texas and Colorado, as well as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Chicago. CCR will also run the product into chain grocery and other large-format stores in Arizona and Central California all the way to San Diego.

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.