One of the fastest growing brands in the natural and organic single serve frozen meals category - which grew by more than 33% between 2011 and 2015 driven by brands such as Amy's, Saffron Road, Blake's, and EVOL Foods - Blake's products include pot pies, casseroles, pasta dishes and other entrees.
ConAgra Foods CEO Sean Connolly said Blake's - which employs around 60 staff - would continue to be run from Concord, New Hampshire, while Blake's president and CEO Chris Licata would stay at the helm.
He added: "Blake’s is a great addition to our existing frozen meals business and provides more choices to a growing group of people buying natural and organic foods. ConAgra Foods will help Blake’s grow and offer its wholesome food to more people across the country.”
ConAgra Foods has several frozen food brands including Alexia, Healthy Choice, Marie Callender’s, Banquet, Kid Cuisine, Bertolli, Odom’s Tennessee Pride and P.F. Chang’s.
'This will not change the Blake’s you know and love'
In a facebook post announcing the move, Blake's said: "Though we will be available to more families in more places, this will not change the Blake’s you know and love. Blake’s will continue to operate out of Concord, NH as we have for four generations and we will continue to make your delicious meals just as they always have - from scratch in small batches with all natural and organic ingredients."
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA last year, Licata said: “I’m optimistic that the frozen department is capable of a bright future. Premium brands and the ones more focused on the better-for-you set are winning, and legacy brands are starting to experience some pressure as a result.”
Heinz, for example, blamed a drop in its Q1 sales this week in part on double-digit declines in its US frozen meals business, while Boulder Brands CEO Steve Hughes observed on an earnings call last year that "Millennials are simply not engaging with the frozen category”, and that "retailers have realized that these legacy brands… their best days are behind them…"
He added: "Retailers believe new, on-trend brands delivering high-quality products with pure and simple ingredients can be the solution, and they are aggressively looking for alternative brands that have potential to bring consumers back to the frozen food category [Boulder Brands owns the fast-growing frozen food brand EVOL Foods]."
Chris Licata, who was named the New Hampshire Small Business Person of the Year in 2014, joined Blake's in 2006 and has helped the brand expand into almost every US state.
The investment bank Silverwood Partners initiated the transaction and acted as exclusive financial advisor to Blake's.
BUYING INNOVATION: SOME RECENT DEALS IN NATURAL & ORGANIC ARENA:
- GENERAL MILLS pays $820m for Annie’s (Sept 2014).
- WHITEWAVE FOODS pays $195m for So Delicious Dairy Free (Sept 2014), invests $3m in Daily Greens (Jan 2015).
- PINNACLE FOODS pays $154m for plant-based protein expert Gardein (Nov 2014).
- HERSHEY buys KRAVE Jerky (Jan 2015).
- MONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL buys Enjoy Life Foods (Feb 2015).
- DR PEPPER SNAPPLE GROUP buys $15m stake in Bai Brands (April 2015).
- CONAGRA FOODS buys Blake’s All Natural Foods (May 2015).