Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods has agreed to buy Lightlife Foods from US private equity firm Brynwood Partners $140 million.
The move marks a foray into the plant-based protein market for Maple Leaf, which up until now has sold meat products, from sausages to deli meat.
Lightlife Foods has 38 percent of the market share in the US refrigerated plant proteins market and reported 2016 sales of approximately $40 million, according to an announcement from Maple Leaf.
The US market for plant-based proteins is estimated at $600 million, with the refrigerated category representing over $110 million and delivering double-digit annual growth, it stated.
“Expanding into the fast growing plant-based proteins market is one of Maple Leaf’s strategic growth platforms and supports our commitment to become a leader in sustainability,” said Michael McCain, president and chief executive.
“Consumers are increasingly looking to diversify their protein consumption, including plant-based options,” he added. “The acquisition of Lightlife provides Maple Leaf with a leading market position and brand in the United States in a category that is outpacing growth in the broader packaged foods sector. We will expand our presence through investment in brand building, innovation and leveraging our respective capabilities.”
Brynwood purchased Massachusetts-based Lightlife from ConAgra Brands in 2013. Lightlife employs approximately 100 people at its facility in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, where it manufactures more than 30 products, including plant-based tempeh, hot dogs, breakfast foods and burgers.
Maple Leaf reported that Q4 2016 profits more than doubled compared to the same period last year; Q4 net earnings rose to C$76.2 million ($57.9 million; €54.8 million) from C$33.3 million. Sales fell to C$828.2 million from C$873.1 million, though the company noted that the 2015 period included an extra week.
Lightlife management will continue to lead the business, which will operate as a subsidiary of Maple Leaf. The deal is expected to close in March.