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Brynwood Partners exits healthy snacks JV with sale

The consumer-focused firm has divested Back to Nature for $162.5m, ending a partnership formed with Mondelez International in 2012.

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The consumer-focused firm has divested Back to Nature for $162.5m, ending a partnership formed with Mondelez International in 2012.

Lower mid-market private equity firm Brynwood Partners has sold Back to Nature Foods Company to B&G Foods for approximately $162.5 million.

Back to Nature offers healthy snacks including granola, cereals, trail mixes and others, through grocery, natural foods and mass market channels. Headquartered in Naples, Florida, Back to Nature was established in 1960 and has since had more than 80 percent of its offerings verified as non-GMO.

B&G said in a statement that Back to Nature has annualized net sales of $80 million and EBITDA of approximately $17 million.

Using capital from its Brynwood VI Fund, which closed on $305 million in 2009, Brynwood purchased Back to Nature is 2012 as part of a joint venture with Illinois-based multinational snacks company Mondelez International. Brynwood had operational control of the joint venture, with Mondelez holding a minority position.

In 2013 Mondelez added SnackWell’s, a provider of reduced fat and fat-free cookies and crackers that was established by Nabisco in 1992, to the Back to Nature joint venture. Both SnackWell’s and Back to Nature were included in B&G’s acquisition.

“The unique joint venture with Mondelez International showcased Brynwood Partners’ investment and operational strengths in consumer and corporate carve-outs,” Brynwood chairman and chief executive Hendrik Hartong III said in a statement. “We were able to restore, invigorate and grow the outstanding Back to Nature and SnackWell’s brands and create a strong standalone company that attracted a prominent strategic buyer in B&G Foods.”

Mondelez was among the companies mentioned in a February report from Moody’s Investors Services that highlighted cost-cutting measures being taken by large packaged food companies in the face of evolving consumer demand for healthier foods.

“Many of these large [food] companies are already picking the low-hanging fruit,” the report’s author, Moody’s senior credit officer Brian Weddington, told Agri Investor at the time. “Private equity firms that are interested in a similar strategy may accelerate those plans while there is still some upside in these companies.”

The transaction is expected to close during the third quarter. Mondelez and Byrnwood representatives did not return messages seeking further comment by press time.

Byrnwood is based in Greenwich, Connecticut and has more than $725 million in assets under management. Its portfolio includes juice company Harvest Hill Beverage Company, Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta and snack-maker Pearsons.