August 2015

Extends and leverages Saffron Road’s Plant-Based Protein Snack Platform with an On-Trend & Leading Lentil/Legume Product Line

Stamford, Connecticut- August 20th, 2015. American Halal Company, Inc. announced today that it had wholly acquired the Mediterranean Snack Foods Company, LLC. (“Mediterranean Snacks®”). American Halal also wholly owns Saffron Road, a leading Natural Frozen Entrée brand as well as a premier innovator of shelf stable natural products, such as Non-GMO Project Verified Simmer Sauces, Organic Chickpea Snacks, and Antibiotic Free Halal Broths.

Mediterranean Snacks is one of the leading lentil snack brands in the U.S. and offers a selection of over 50 Natural lentil/legume based chips, crackers, and veggie snacks. Mediterranean Snacks was founded in 2005 by Vincent James and is a pioneer in the nutritious plant-based snacks category, with innovative products like Baked Lentil Chips®, Lentil Crackers, Hummuz™ Crackers, and its recently launched BeanStalks™ Snacks. Mediterranean Snacks products are widely distributed in 20,000 stores across multiple grocery, specialty, convenience, club, and mass channels in U.S. and Canada. Many of their products are Non-GMO Project Verified and have enjoyed recognition from industry leaders and media superstars- including Dr. Oz, Shape Magazine, The Gourmet Retailer, and Progressive Grocer.

With its distinctive product offerings, Mediterranean Snacks offers compelling opportunities to extend its line under a Saffron Road brand portfolio. Adnan Durrani, CEO of American Halal Company, Inc., commented by stating, “We are quite excited about our acquisition today of Mediterranean Snacks. While we get offered many opportunities for potential buyouts every year, this is not only American Halal’s first and only one, but one of the few that we feel is a perfect tuck in acquisition for the Saffron Road portfolio. Mediterranean Snacks and Saffron Road are very complementary as well as synergistic given both our consumers and demographics sweet spots are at the center of the massive U.S. trends for healthy snacking of foods that are Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, high in protein and fiber, clean labeled, and calorically smart. Moreover, Vincent’s excellent Nabisco and Kraft pedigree significantly enhances the leadership of our snack production and product development teams. This acquisition now catapults American Halal’s footing onto a heightened platform in plant-based protein snacking- an area we have seen some excellent recent success in with our Chickpea Snacks line and which we now intend to establish a beachhead in as well as to devote serious resources behind. This will allow us to build on Saffron Road’s brand leadership in natural frozen entrees by scaling our marketing and sales team to lead a dynamic and highly innovative ambient snack category. We expect this acquisition to be accretive to our margins in 2016 and beyond. This tuck in rollup is the next chapter in American Halal’s tremendous growth which we intend to successfully leverage into  Saffron Road’s stellar brand value and success at multiple levels of in store placement, distribution channels, trade. We are now well on our way in establishing Saffron Road as a national platform brand in the $60 billion natural, and alternative snack food sectors.“

Vincent James, CEO of Mediterranean Snack Foods Company, who will now be Senior Vice President and General Manager of Saffron Road’s Snack Division, commented by saying, “we are excited to be part of the American Halal Company/Saffron Road Team and this acquisition leverages the Mediterranean Snacks brand to the next level in plant-based protein snack foods.”

Silverwood Partners acted as investment bankers and The Giannuzzi Group, LLP were the lawyers for Mediterranean Snack Foods Company, LLC. Golenbock, Eiseman, Assor, Bell & Peskoe, LLP acted as legal advisors to American Halal Company, Inc.

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SOURCE: Saffron Road

By Richard Collings

The fourth floor of an aging brick building in the heart of the New York City’s Meatpacking District might be the studio of the latest “it” fashion designer or the lair of a technology company launching the newest dating app.

But not this one. Far from the glass-clad office towers of midtown Manhattan, this space houses a corporate law firm that, in its own way, is just as hot as anything on a runway or smartphone.

To be clear, while the offices of Giannuzzi Group LLP radiate an entreprenuerial vibe, the firm is anything but a start-up. Nick Giannuzzi has been building the practice for more than 20 years since becoming an independent legal adviser to some of the trendiest names in food.

“You work for 20 years, and then you’re an overnight success,” Giannuzzi quipped, as he sat in a conference room, surrounded by shelves filled with his clients’ products and the walls covered with posters advertising those companies’ goods.

 

GIANNUZZI GROUP FOUNDER NICK GIANNUZZI

The firm’s client roster reads like a who’s who of the fastest growing consumer brands to hit retail shelves during the past few years. The makers of PopChips popped potato chips, Siggi’s yogurt, Suja juice beverages, Vita Coco coconut water and Pirate’s Booty puffed snacks, among others, have sought Giannuzzi’s counsel in recent years .

The list also includes jerky maker Krave Pure Foods Inc., which recently sold to Hershey Co. (HSY) for more than $300 million or more than 9 times revenue. And it includes fruit and nut bar maker Kind LLC, whose founder Daniel Lubetzky bought back a minority stake in his company for about $220 million in early 2014.

Perhaps most famously, the law firm had another long-term client for whom Giannuzzi said he handled all legal matters, including several rounds of financing: Glaceau Vitaminwater parent Energy Brands Inc.

An early client of Giannuzzi’s, Energy Brands would end up selling to Coca-Cola Co. (KO) for $4.1 billion. The law firm advised on the deal, but a larger firm had to be brought in as the lead on it.

In fact, Energy Brands was one of Giannuzzi’s early clients.

WHEN GIANNUZZI WAS 29, he decided to strike out on his own, leaving Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts (now known as Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP) to form Donovan & Giannuzzi LLP with Nicholas Donovan in 1996. Giannuzzi then parted ways with Donovan to form Giannuzzi Group in 2011.

A typical client back then was the father and son team of William and J. Darius Bikoff, who sought counsel in 1999 having started a beverage company a few years earlier. A couple of months later, Giannuzzi said, the company decided it would be a good idea to put vitamins in water, and Vitaminwater was born.

The relationship he developed with Energy Brands is emblematic of how Giannuzzi has built his firm over the years-taking on entrepreneurs at an early stage when other lawyers and their firms are reluctant to do so. If one of those clients has a hit after the product formulation and brand is in place, it only takes a few years for the company to go from zero sales to desirable acquisition target with tens of millions of dollars in revenue and double-digit growth.

Giannuzzzi eschews midtown’s towers and the imposing wood-paneled formality of many of the advisory firms’ offices located in such buildings. He does that to create an atmosphere entrepreneurs are familiar with and comfortable in. The dress code at Giannuzzi is equally casual, jeans and button-downs, with no ties, and sleeves likely rolled up.

Lawyers are hired straight out of college rather than from other law firms, and the firm’s culture is to work hard, but to enjoy the offices as though they are a second home, Giannuzzi explained.

In addition, by starting his own firm, Giannuzzi has experienced the same anxiety as his clients-the fear of the phone not ringing.

The law firm’s clients seem more than satisfied with the services Giannuzzi renders.

“Much more than legal counsel, [Giannuzzi is] an incredibly valuable partner who gave us fantastic legal counsel, insightful strategic advice [and] access to his Rolodex,” said Sean Olson, founder of snack food company IPS Chips LLC. “If you’re starting a company in the [food and beverage] space, Nick is the guy to work with.”

Krave founder Jon Sebastiani echoes Olson’s praise of Giannuzzi’s network and the access he provides. Sebastiani also noted that “[Giannuzzi] has an unbelievable team that works ungodly hours.” When Krave was in the midst of a round of fundraising or a deal, it would not be uncommon for Sebastiani to be on the phone with Nick Giannuzzi at 1 a.m. He added that he expects he will likely work with the law firm in the future, even after the sale of his company to Hershey.

Giannuzzi said that all of the large transactions his law firm advises on are with clients he has represented since their early stages.

And advising a client from the beginning, when the company has no revenue, he can structure every contract so as to obtain the highest valuation possible in the advent of a sale.

For example, if a beverage start-up signs a contract with a distributor who wants a “forever” contract, Coca-Cola will likely not want to purchase the business, eliminating an important potential bidder. “Forever” contracts make it difficult for a beverage manufacturer to change distributors, even when an incumbent performs poorly.

When it comes time to sell the company, Giannuzzi said, he has attended every board meeting and intimately understands the reason behind every decision, which helps during the due diligence process.

In order to prepare an owner for a sale, Giannuzzi will conduct mock due diligence in which the client prepares a data room. And then the firm goes in and “beats it up,” probing executives on issues such as ensuring that all the trademarks are filed and whether any contracts are expiring.

And if a problem surfaces-say, a trademark hasn’t been registered in Brazil- the company needs to explain why, he said.

Like Energy Brands, Krave also was an early-stage company Giannuzzi said he took on. It is another example of a fast-growing consumer food brand that sold to a publicly traded consumer packaged goods conglomerate for a rich valuation.

Other examples include Preferred Brands International Inc.’s Tasty Bite, acquired by Kagome Corp. in April for 2 times revenue, and Happy Family parent Nurture Inc., which sold for several times its revenue to Danone SA in 2013.

Giannuzzi considers potential clients’ brands, packaging and positioning to determine whether they can win their respective categories. But the founder added that he’s not one to turn away a budding entrepreneur seeking advice. “There’s a sense you don’t want to say no, because you don’t want someone to say no to you,” Giannuzzi noted.

The firm has represented a number of companies that have tapped into the increasing demand for natural and organic foods, and as a result, are desirable targets for food conglomerates under pressure to add good-for-you products.

“I’m lucky to be in the epicenter of one of the biggest areas of growth in America,” Giannuzzi said.

Giannuzzi, however, is better positioned than in 2007 as a firm when it had to hand over a lead legal advisory role to one of the bigger firms when its client Energy Brands was bought.

At the time of the deal, Giannuzzi had only six lawyers, the founder said, but that is not the case today. Giannuzzi insisted, “We have the manpower for any sized deal now.”

New Investments Unlock Growth Opportunities for One of the Nation’s Leading Cold-Pressured, Organic Juice and Smoothie Brands San Diego, Ca.

(August 19, 2015) – Suja Life LLC. (Suja), named the #2 Most Promising Company in 2015 by Forbes, is pleased to announce an investment and distribution partnership with The Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola’s minority investment will increase the availability of Suja, moving the brand closer to achieving its mission of democratizing organic, cold-pressured juice. The Coca-Cola Company will also begin distributing Suja through the Odwalla chilled direct store delivery system. In addition, the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs has made a minority investment in Suja. The closing of these deals provides Suja with the expertise and accessibility to further increase product distribution and operational efficiencies, as well as the ability to expand its manufacturing facilities to increase capacity in response to growing demand.

Suja Juice family

“When we started our home-delivery juicing company in San Diego about three years ago, we couldn’t have imagined the incredible growth and consumer demand that we face today,” said Jeff Church, CoFounder and CEO of Suja. “As we continued to innovate and find ways to democratize juice, we soon realized that for us to take the business to the next level in providing organic, cold-pressured juice to even more people, we needed to find the correct strategic partners. As these new partnerships begin, nothing will change in Suja’s promise to its fans: our juice will always be organic, non-GMO, coldpressured, and free of any additives.”

Suja has experienced unprecedented growth in the natural foods and conventional channels, quickly rising in ranks to become one of the most popular cold-pressured juice brands in the country. However, since day one, the company’s mission remains the same as it is today – to democratize the best quality juice, with the goal of getting organic, non-GMO, cold-pressured juice in the hands of as many people as possible. The brand’s first step in realizing this mission was the launch of Suja Essentials™ – the first USDA organic, non-GMO, cold-pressured juice available for less than $4. In Suja’s second step toward completing their brand mission, they realized the need to partner with a large and expert organization like The Coca-Cola Company to help provide additional support, specifically as it pertained to distribution, efficiencies and capacity expansion.

“Suja’s commitment to excellence in its beverages, operations and mission has positioned it as a leader in the rapidly-growing organic juice segment,” said Mike Saint John, President, Value Added Dairy and Natural Health Beverages, Coca-Cola North America. “This, coupled with the resources of The Coca-Cola Company including our unmatched distribution system, will expand availability of this delicious beverage. Suja’s great-tasting, organic juice will nicely complement our broad portfolio and expand it further to meet people’s beverage needs.”

The benefits of the partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs will quickly be evident to consumers as they begin to see Suja in even more places. Behind-the-scenes, Suja will continue to innovate and push boundaries within the health & wellness space while remaining committed to its promise to consumers. Suja’s juices and smoothies will always be USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, and will always be cold-pressured using High Pressure Processing to kill any harmful bacteria and preserve maximum nutrition and taste. Suja will never compromise on the quality of its ingredients, delivering convenient nutrition in each and every sip, and all juices and smoothies will be free of artificial and natural flavorings, preservatives, additives, and artificial ingredients. Throughout this all, Suja remains thankful to their loyal fans who have consumed over 40 million bottles since the brand launch.

Piper Jaffray & Co. was the advisor to Suja and the sole advisor on the transaction. The Giannuzzi Group, LLP served as legal counsel to Suja through the transaction and continues to be the company’s legal counsel.

About Suja Juice Co.

Suja Juice™ began from a shared dream to help people transform their lives through conscious nutrition. The three handcrafted lines of cold-pressured juices, Suja Classic™, Suja Elements™ & Suja Essentials™ are Certified Organic and verified Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. All juices and smoothies are coldpressured using High Pressure Processing (HPP) to kill any harmful bacteria and preserve maximum nutrition and taste. Suja revolutionized juice with the launch of Suja Classic™ the company’s original cold-pressed juice line. Suja Elements™ are juices with a purpose. For every bottle purchased, 20¢ – 25¢ is donated to an important social or environmental cause through the Suja Elements Cause Collective™. In 2014, Suja introduced, Suja Essentials™ – the first USDA organic, non-GMO, cold-pressured juice available for less than $4. With a wide range of cold-pressed organic offerings, Suja™ has a juice for every lifestyle. Suja can be purchased at grocery, natural and mass stores nationwide and through SujaJuice.com, and Amazon.com. For more information on Cold-Pressure Technology, please visit www.ColdPressured.Org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SujaJuice

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sujajuice

Instagram: @lovesuja

 

SOURCE: BevNET 

Financing Round Reflects Momentum in Natural Food Movement

NEW YORK, Aug. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Sir Kensington’s, the leading all-natural condiment company, announced the completion of a $8.5 million Series A equity financing round today. In five years, Sir Kensington’s has become the fastest growing condiment brand in Whole Foods and is the ketchup of choice for hundreds of restaurants and hotels nationwide, including the Ritz Carlton, Bareburger, PJ Clarke’s, and The Spotted Pig.

All of Sir Kensington’s ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard products are Non-GMO Project Verified and are made with simple, whole ingredients. Funds will be used to accelerate distribution growth in the North American natural grocery and foodservice channels, expand product offerings, and make key hires.

Led by Verlinvest, the investment demonstrates the continued commitment of Verlinvest to early stage growth capital investments in emerging consumer businesses. Verlinvest’s previous investments in the US include innovative consumer product brands, including category pioneers vitaminwater, Vita Coco, popchips, Hint, and Sambazon.

“We’re excited to support Sir Kensington’s growth ambitions in the US and internationally,” said Verlinvest’s Chairman, Frederic de Mevius. “We look forward to furthering this brand’s reach as the leading premium condiment company.”

Alongside Verlinvest, private investors in the round include individuals with entrepreneurial experience in consumer products, restaurant hospitality, and consumer marketing. These investors include Mike Kirban, founder of Vita Coco; David Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; the co-founders of Sweetgreen through SWTLF Ventures; Andrew Essex, founder of Droga5; and Chris Burggraeve, former Global CMO of AB InBev. Mr. Burggraeve will also join the company’s Board to provide strategic marketing guidance to the growing brand.

“With Verlinvest’s investment, we’re looking forward to continue bringing choice to the condiment market.” said Mark Ramadan andScott Norton, Co-Founders of Sir Kensington’s.

“Through this partnership, we’ll be able to take what we’ve done at a small scale and bring it to more people than ever.”

ABOUT SIR KENSINGTON’S

Sir Kensington’s is the premier producer of all-natural condiments served and sold nationwide. Launched by Scott Norton and Mark Ramadan in 2010, Sir Kensington’s now offers award- winning lines of ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. Sir Kensington’s strives to create products recognized as both healthy and uncompromisingly delicious. Their condiments are widely distributed in natural grocery stores such as Whole Foods, as well as acclaimed restaurants and hotels in major urban markets.

ABOUT VERLINVEST

Verlinvest is a private, consumer-focused investment holding company. Its shareholders are part of the Belgian stable shareholder families of AB InBev. Active since 1995 with a global approach (offices in Brussels, New York and Singapore), Verlinvest aims at diversifying family holdings through private and public investments in fast-growing branded consumer product and service companies. Verlinvest acts as a long-term partner helping talented management teams to drive growth across channels and geographies, primarily in the food and beverage, retail / e-commerce, hospitality, and digital marketing sectors. Verlinvest currently has over €1bn of net assets.

 

SOURCES: Sir Kensington’s & PRNewswire

Soda maker is paying $20 million for 11.7% holding in startup headed by Mike Repole

By: Mike Esterl

Aug. 11, 2015

Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. DPS -0.13 % is paying $20 million for an 11.7% stake in BodyArmor, the sports drink startup headed by Vitaminwater co-founder Mike Repole and backed by a group of investors that includes NBA star Kobe Bryant.

The deal for closely held BA Sports Nutrition LLC helps soda maker Dr Pepper Snapple take aim at the faster-growing $7 billion U.S. sports drink market dominated for years by PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.47 % ’s Gatorade and Coca-Cola Co. KO -0.48 % ’s Powerade. It also brings to Dr Pepper Snapple some star power. In addition to Mr. Bryant, BodyArmor’s other investors include National Football League quarterback Andrew Luck and Major League Baseball outfielder Mike Trout.

Mr. Repole has made a name for himself as a serial entrepreneur. After helping to cofound Energy Brands Inc., maker of Vitaminwater and Smartwater, he helped sell it to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. He was also chairman and a large shareholder in snack maker Pirate’s Booty, which was eventually sold to B&G Foods Inc. BGS -0.17 % for $200 million.

In 2012 Mr. Repole launched BodyArmor with Lance Collins, who founded Fuze Beverage LLC before the tea and energy drink maker was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007 for about $250 million.

The deal with Dr Pepper Snapple “gives us strength and muscle,’’ said Mr. Repole, who is the largest shareholder and will continue to run the company.

Dr Pepper Snapple has been distributing BodyArmor since 2013.

Mr. Repole said BodyArmor had about $30 million in retail sales last year but that sales are up 180% this year through August. He said the beverage is sold in about 25,000 stores and 40 states but should be available nationally in twice that many stores next year as Dr Pepper Snapple ramps up distribution.

Like Gatorade and Powerade, BodyArmor is rich in electrolytes to help with hydration. But the sports drink is lower in sodium, higher in potassium and uses coconut water. BodyArmor is also marketed as more natural than its larger rivals because it doesn’t use artificial colors like Gatorade or high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener like Powerade.

NBA star Kobe Bryant is an investor in BodyArmor. Other investors in the sports drink maker include NFL quarterback Andrew Luck and MLB outfielder Mike Trout. PHOTO: DANNY MOLOSHOK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

PepsiCo’s Gatorade had a 77% share of the $6.81 billion U.S. sports drink market last year, according to data service Euromonitor International. Coca-Cola’s Powerade was a distant No. 2, with a 20% market share.

U.S. sports drink sales averaged 3.8% annual growth between 2009 and 2014, according to Euromonitor.

Dr Pepper Snapple is eager to diversify amid a decadelong downturn in U.S. soda-industry volumes. About 80% of the company’s volume comes from soda.

But the No. 3 U.S. soda maker by revenue behind Coke and PepsiCo has also said it’s not eager to buy companies outright even as it strikes distribution agreements with more beverage companies.

“To acquire them would be just too expensive and we’re not sure the right thing to do,’’ Marty Ellen, Dr Pepper Snapple’s chief financial officer, told analysts during a conference call last month.

BodyArmor was represented by The Giannuzzi Group.

Aug 7, 2015

 

WhiteWave Foods has announced the acquisition of Wallaby Yogurt Co. in a $125m deal.

 

Wallaby is a manufacturer and distributor of organic dairy yogurt products that include Greek and Australian yogurts and Kefir beverages. It had sales of more than $45m for the year ended June 2015.

 

“The addition of Wallaby will strengthen and expand WhiteWave’s growing yogurt portfolio and provide entry into several fast-growing yogurt categories. The acquisition also provides WhiteWave with West Coast based yogurt manufacturing capabilities and other expansion and growth opportunities,” WhiteWave said in a statement.

 

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2015.

 

WhiteWave increased its sales and full year earnings per share guidance today, on the back of higher reported net sales and profits during the second quarter.

Janica Lane of Piper Jaffray acted as financial adviser and the Giannuzzi Group of New York acted as legal counsel to Wallaby Yogurt Co.