Danone, JM Smucker divestments & Cal-Maine acquisition reflect push to reshape, rebuild portfolios as industry stocks struggle

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Parradee Kietsirikul
Source: Getty/Parradee Kietsirikul

Related tags Danone Cal-Maine Foods JM Smucker acquisition

A trio of acquisitions and divestments in the packaged food industry at the turn of the new year suggest companies are taking a proactive and aggressive approach to rebuilding their businesses by reshaping their portfolios after industry stocks overall struggled in 2023.

Danone, JM Smucker and Tyson all announced sales of select brands or facilities that were scooped up by investment firms or competitors in the days leading up to and kicking off the new year.

The flurry of activity comes after a difficult year for food and beverage stocks, which have underperformed in the last 52 weeks, during which the S&P Composite 1500 Food Beverage & Tobacco fell 7% and the Dynamic Food & Beverage Intellidex Index dipped 1%. The drop-off reflects in part CPG companies’ struggles to lap high volume and sale marks first during the pandemic and then during a period of decades-high inflation. In the back half of 2023, several food and beverage companies reported slower than expected volume increases as deflation began to eat into their dollar sales gains and lingering high prices suppress consumer activity.

Danone sells Horizon Organic, Wallaby business in the US

Among the three deals, Danone’s proposed sale of is organic dairy business, including Horizon Organic and Wallaby, to US-based investment firm Platinum Equity reflects a general trend toward SKU rationalization and portfolio paring that CPG companies have embraced since the pandemic forced them to reassess supply chains, costs and their returns on investments.

The definitive agreement, announced Jan. 2, to sell Horizon Organic and Wallaby for an undisclosed amount is part of Danone’s “Renew Danone” strategy announced last March, which includes four pillars, including restoring the company’s competitiveness in core categories and geographies, selectively expanding Danone’s presence in segments, channels and geographies, “seeding of future growth avenues” and an active portfolio rotation.

At the time, CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique said the portfolio review and renew strategy were necessary because while “Danone has been leading the way in many fields: branding, innovation, people’s development and sustainability,” it also has “been underperforming our markets for a while and [has] a lot we can improve on.”

The deal gives Horizon Organic and Wallaby the potential to shine as an independent business under the guidance of Platinum Equity which sees the brands as well positioned to tap into demand for organic and value-added products within the dairy milk category.

JM Smucker closes sale of fermented condiment brands to TreeHouse Foods

The same day that Danone announced the sale of its premium dairy business, JM Smucker Co closed the sale of its Bick’s pickles, Habitant pickled beet, Woodman’s horseradish nd McLarens pickled onions brands to Treehouse Foods for about $20m in cash.

Like Danone, JM Smucker based its decision to sell on its desire to better focus on growing core areas, including coffee, spreads, frozen handheld and pet.

JM Smucker has been aggressively reshaping its portfolio​ in the past year, with the other deals including the divestment of Sahale Snacks and acquisition of Hostess Brands.  Even though the company remains bullish on pet, it also recently divested part of its pet food business to Post Holdings.

Cal-Maine Foods scoops up Tyson Foods’ shuttered broiler processing plant

At the tail end of 2023, fresh egg producer Cal-Maine Foods announced plans to acquire a broiler processing plant, hatchery and feed mill in Dexter, Mo., which were among several facilities that Tyson Foods recently closed.

Cal-Maine says it plans to convert the assets to support egg and egg product production, including converting the broiler processing plant to an egg grading facility. The acquisition also could support the potential expansion into egg product processing capabilities, such as hard-cooked eggs.

The deal also will expand Cal-Maine’s geographic footprint and its cage free, free range and pasture raised egg production operations if farmers that previously worked with Tyson convert their operations to support Cal-Maine.

Tyson shuttered the plant ​along with several other chicken and meat facilities as part of a broader effort to become more efficient and find cost-savings. It simultaneously opened a high-tech chicken facility to further accelerate growth.

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