Dean Foods, the largest processor and distributor of dairy products in the U.S., yesterday announced its acquisition of organic juice company Uncle Matt’s Organic for an undisclosed fee. In a statement, Dean Foods CEO Ralph Scozzafava hailed the deal as one that “underscores [the company’s] commitment to the organic space,” following its recent partnership with Organic Valley and investment in plant-based food and beverage company Good Karma.
“Dean Foods is committed to supporting Uncle Matt’s product innovation efforts and their ongoing development and growth in the natural channel,” Scozzafava said. “Moreover, our core strengths in selling and distribution will enable consumers unprecedented access to Uncle Matt’s delicious, on-trend line of products.”
Uncle Matt’s markets a range of organic juice products that are primarily sold in the natural channel. The company promotes its juices as “grown and produced without synthetic pesticides, GMOs or flavor packets.” With its flagship multi-serve orange juice leading the way, Uncle Matt’s has gradually expanded its portfolio to include more single-serve offerings and products formulated with functional ingredients, such as matcha, probiotics and the adaptogenic herb ashwagandha.
The deal comes five years after Boulder-based venture capital fund Greenmont Capital Partners acquired a minority stake in Uncle Matt’s, which was advised on the sale by Whipstitch Capital, an investment bank that specializes in M&A acquisitions and private placement advisory services to CPG companies.
In a call with BevNET, Uncle Matt’s CEO Matt McLean said that while there were a variety of potential options for both new investment and acquisition of the company, “we fell in love the Dean Foods team and what they could offer, from supporting our mission to the potential synergies there are… with their DSD network nationwide.”
“At the end of the day, it just felt like the right fit at the right time,” he said.
Mike Burgmaier, co-founder and managing director of Whipstitch Capital, noted that while sales within the overall orange juice category have been in decline for several years, Uncle Matt’s has been one of the few bright spots and continues to see growth.
“They’ve firmly established themselves as the number one organic orange juice in the country,” he said. “This is the go-to brand. If a retailer wants to have an organic orange juice, Uncle Matt’s is the brand. And Dean Foods is the perfect partner. They’ve got fantastic cold chain distribution and looking to up the ante on organic and natural beverages using their capabilities.”
As part of the acquisition, McLean will join Dean Foods in a newly created position: senior director of organic beverages. Primary among his new responsibilities will be to evaluate other potential brand acquisitions.
“They’ve got a lot more in the pipeline,” McLean said of Dean Foods. “That’s what also intrigued me about the fit. You get to add… to the network and be part of something new, with a team that’s got the horsepower to take it to market.”