Passport Foods swaps PE owners

New owners Swander Pace Capital hope to capitalize on increasingly-eclectic consumer tastes.

Consumer-focused private equity firm Swander Pace Capital has acquired internationally-flavored foods distributor Passport Foods Group (Passport) from Wedbush Capital Partners for an undisclosed price, the firm announced Thursday.

Swander Pace managing director Mark Poff told Agri Investor in an email that the capital for the investment came from the firm’s SPC Partners V fund, which closed on $350 million in 2014.

Founded in 1978 as a family-owned provider of noodles to Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles, Passport sells more than 125 distinct products to food retailers and restaurants nationwide. Its restaurant customers include Panda Express, Cheesecake Factory and Applebee’s and its foodservice products are sold under the Wing Hing and House of Bee brands.

“With consumers increasingly looking for creatively-flavored, high-quality foodservice and retail products, Passport is well-positioned to leverage these trends and drive growth through a continued commitment to innovation, new products and best-in-class manufacturing,” said Swander Pace managing director Heather Smith Thorne in the statement.

Passport chief executive John Signorino added that he hopes working with Swander Pace will help the company capitalize on growing demand for “innovative, global flavored, clean label products.”

Wedbush is Los Angeles-based lower mid-market private equity firm with $120 million in assets under management, according to PEI data. The firm pursues recapitalizations, buyouts and equity investments of between $2 million and $10 million in business or financial services and manufacturing companies with revenues of between $10 million and $50 million located in the western US.

Prior food-related investments by Wedbush have included confectionery products provider Alpine Confections and Nonni’s Food Company, which markets branded specialty baked goods.

Swander Pace is a lower mid-market private equity firm established in 1996 that focuses on investments in the food and beverage, body and wellness and home and family consumer sectors. The firm maintains offices in San Francisco and New Jersey and has raised cumulative equity commitments of approximately $1.8 billion.

The firm’s other food-related investments include Kicking Horse Coffee, Oregon Ice Cream and Ethnic Gourmet Food, which sells frozen foods. In 2015, Swander Pace sold a minority stake in Applegate Farms to Hormel Foods for $775 million.