JBS has agreed to acquire Vivera in a deal that values the European plant-based food group at €431m. The acquisition comes as a boost to JBS’s global expansion in the plant-based sector. The company already operates plant-based brands in Latin and North America – including Seara’s Incrível line, a market leader in plant-based hamburgers in Brazil, and Planterra, with the OZO brand in the United States.
“JBS is aiming to grow a global plant-based platform,” a spokesperson for the company told FoodNavigator. “This acquisition is an important step in our plant-based trajectory and a welcome addition to our portfolio of strong brands each contributing to our success as a key global player throughout the food sector.”
Vivera: A tasty M&A target
Vivera is Europe’s third-largest plant-based food maker – and the region’s largest independent plant-based business.
The company develops and produces a ‘broad range of innovative plant-based meat replacement products’ for major retailers in over 25 markets, JBS noted. Vivera offers ‘relevant market share’ in the Netherlands, the UK and Germany.
“Vivera has over 100 products that are sold in 25 countries, including important markets such as the UK, Netherlands and Germany. The acquisition will further expand our presence and increase the distribution capacity of products in Europe,” the spokesperson noted.
This centre of gravity in north western Europe reflects the distribution of sales across the region. According to research from ING, the UK is the most-developed market, with retail sales of nearly €1bn, followed by France and Germany. Consumption per capita is highest in the Nordics and the Benelux.
ING forecasts that the plant-based sector will reach sales of €7.5bn by 2025, compared to €4.9bn in 2019, having grown by 10% annually between 2010 and 2020.
Vivera’s growth would appear to be market-beating. “Vivera has EUR83m in annual revenue and is experiencing strong growth of 25-30% year on year,” JBS told us.
According to Vivera CEO Willem van Weede, Vivera can expect to accelerate the top line under JBS’s ownership. “Joining forces with JBS gives us access to significant resources and capabilities to accelerate our current strong growth trajectory and Vivera brand expansion,” he said.
‘They will benefit from our global distribution’
Vivera will continue to operate on a stand-alone basis and the current leadership team will remain in place. The acquisition includes Vivera’s three manufacturing facilities and an R&D centre in the Netherlands.
“Vivera will give JBS a stronghold in the plant-based sector, with technological knowledge and capacity for innovation,” said JBS global CEO Gilberto Tomazoni.
For its part, Vivera is expected to leverage its larger parent organisation’s sales and distribution channels as well as tapping into its innovation capabilities and know-how.
“Vivera’s current leadership will be maintained but all of our business units are encouraged to reach their maximum potential in each market by sharing experiences and innovations. They will benefit from our global distribution platform and constant opportunities for collaboration with our Global Innovation Team and JBS’ global center for innovation, research and development in the US," JBS's spokesperson noted.
This relationship is expected to be a two-way street, the spokesperson continued. “We look forward to learning from their expertise and providing high-quality alternative products as we cater to the diverse expectations of consumers.”
It’s all about the value-add
Bradesco BBI analyst Leandro Fontanesi said that the deal isn’t just about increasing JBS’s exposure to plant-based proteins, it also reflects the company’s drive to develop its portfolio of higher margin, value-added products. “It makes sense given the global trend of increasing penetration of plant-based products in consumer baskets,” he said.
Given the high valuations in the plant-based sector, Fontanesi also observed that he can see why the price tag looked attractive to JBS.
“The EV/sales of 4.3x implied in JBS’ acquisition of Vivera is below plant-based player Beyond Meat’s trading EV/sales of 15x for 2021 (based on consensus), and thus the deal’s valuation may look accretive for JBS from this specific standpoint.”
In the context of JBS’s size and scale, Vivera remains a minnow. In his note to investors, Fontanesi observed that the deal’s size is ‘not particularly relevant’, representing just 1.5% of JBS’ total EV. “We estimate it may increase the company’s net debt/EBITDA by only ~0.1x,” he revealed.
Nevertheless, Vivera represents an important regional foothold in a growing segment of the market, JBS stressed.
“Strong growth is expected in this category throughout global markets. The deal will add a brand to JBS’ portfolio that is well- established in consumer preference, strengthening the company’s focus on value-added products.”
The deal was approved by the JBS board of directors but remains subject to competition approval.