Perfect Snacks sells majority stake to Mondelēz: 'This is a big play for Mondelēz, to jump into the fridge'

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mondelēz dives into fresh snacking acquiring a majority stake in Perfect Snacks

Related tags: Mondelez, Perfect Snacks, Snacks, Nutrition

Mondelēz has acquired a majority interest in refrigerated nutrition bar brand Perfect Snacks, known for its Original Refrigerated Protein Bar, giving the CPG giant a play in the fast-growing refrigerated snacking category.

One of the top fears for any smaller brand that enters an acquisition deal with a multinational, is being 'swallowed up' and losing the brand authenticity that propelled them to success in the first place, co-founder and president, Leigh Keith, told FoodNavigator-USA.

But she added: "We took our time and did our homework over the last year. We were reaching a significant size and scale where we could truly benefit from a strategic partner."

Leigh explained that Perfect Snacks had always been comfortable with its 'grass roots' business approach, but now that the company has reached an over $100m run rate, it needed a heavy hitting strategic partner who could support its agility and accelerate its speed to market as the company explores new platforms and expands consumer penetration and distribution.

Leigh also believes Perfect Snacks can teach Mondelēz a few things as well.

"This is a big play for Mondelēz, to jump into the fridge. The fact that they would use us to spearhead a new direction for their company, it felt so right.

"To find a partner that would look to us and follow our lead and then we could lead on them for resources...were all important factors in our decision,"​ said Leigh who added that she was encouraged after talking to Mondelēz's past brand acquisitions, Tate's and Enjoy Life Foods, who all said Mondelēz was a supportive partner that "does what they say."

Once the deal is complete, Perfect Snacks will operate as a separate business with co-founders and siblings Bill, Leigh, and Charisse Keith to maintain a "significant minority equity interest in the company,​" and continuing to run the business from its headquarters in San Diego, California.

From family snack to mainstream success

Today anyone following a whole foods, nutrient-rich diet wouldn't be hard pressed to find products that fit their lifestyle, but travel back a few decades the idea was extremely niche. Bud Keith, the father to 13 children, six of whom went on to found Perfect Snacks in 2005) began Health House Gym and Juice Bar in 1961 and became the vice president of Jack Lalanne's (known culturally as the 'Godfather of fitness') health and fitness company. 

As a holistic nutritionist, Bud Keith would often make bars out of finely ground whole foods supplements mixed with peanut butter and honey, and share them with his kids, who all learned how to make the bars themselves and for their dad who sold them to his health clients.

"We technically have been doing this for 24 years,"​ said Leigh Keith. "We first started selling these in zip-loc bags when I was 10 and Bill (the oldest sibling) was 13." 

When their father was diagnosed with skin cancer, the family began to struggle financially as their father was the primary source of income of their household.

"At that point we had a decision to make,"​ recounts Bill Keith. "We gathered together, looked at our options, and we decided to turn the recipe that we got fed as kids into a business."

The Keith family pooled their resources and sold their house to launch the business in 2005. 

Keith_Family_2017[1]

Ahead of its time

At the time Keith received a lot of pushback on the concept of a refrigerated nutrition bar free from preservatives.

"For the first one or two years, we were going down quickly,"​ said Bill Keith. "If you think about it, a refrigerated bar back in 2005 was ahead of its time."

"We were a good eight years ahead of our time at that point (roughly the same time when Chobani was establishing a market base); it was tough," ​added Leigh.

Bill explained that the retail store didn't cater towards refrigerated packaged snacks. "A lot of buyers couldn't wrap their head around it; they put us next to salsa, they put us in these random parts of the store, so we couldn't find a home."

In order to convince buyers that refrigerated snacks was a huge opportunity, Keith and his 12 other siblings would set up demos and sampling familiarizing shoppers with the refrigerated protein bar concept.

"We had to prove that we could really sell. We demo'd like crazy, day after day. What gave us the confidence to move forward is that we had consumers telling us that this was the best bar they ever tasted,"​ said Bill.

The Perfect Snacks brand, which has expanded with a 'Perfect Kids' bar line and Perfect Bites, is now sold in over 27,000 retail locations nationwide (up from 5,000 in 2015), and in 2018 the company generated $70m in net revenue with solid double digit growth year-over-year.

It's not just Perfect Snacks business that has taken off, the refrigerated snacks category has also surged in consumer demand. According to Mintel's "The Future of Fresh"​ report from 2018, the US refrigerated snacking segment generates $20bn in annual sales and represents one-third of the total US snacking market. Within that space, "wellbeing snacks" (which includes products such as nutrition bars, yogurt, and packs with nuts and fruits) represent around $7bn, growing at 8% year-over-year for the past three years. 

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