Top Food and Beverage Companies for 2006: It's been a tough year
Energy, raw materials and employee benefits costs have weighed heavily on the food group, making for a lackluster 2005; things arenít improving this year.
While still No. 3 on the list, PepsiCo increased sales by nearly $1.8 billion, fueled by “profitable growth across all divisions, on every continent and across both convenient food and beverage categories,” bragged Steve Reinemund, chairman and CEO, in the annual report. No. 4 Nestle’s U.S. and Canadian operations were up by more than $2 billion.
While the top four names remain unchanged, last year’s No. 5, ConAgra Foods Inc., is undergoing some refocusing. As a result of selling off some product lines, it dropped to No. 9. Its placement on this chart also may be the victim of some changes in its own financial reporting, which has shifted some of its ingredients and more commodity-based products into a division that is easier for us to exclude.
Ditto for Sara Lee. As we went to press, it began the process of spinning off its apparel business into a new and public company, Hanesbrands Inc., and also selling off a European meats business (to No. 8 Smithfield Foods). While those operations have never been included in this listing, Sara Lee also sold off a few food businesses we do count, helping to drop it four places in the ranking.
A number of companies lost food-only sales in 2005, although that was as much the result of us sharpening our pencils and deducting more non-food revenues as to declining sales.
On the other hand, a couple of companies climbed the ladder on their own power. General Mills, last year’s No. 11, landed at No. 7 with a nearly $300 million increase in sales. Campbell Soup grew by more than $400 million and was the darling of financial analysts at the annual Consumer Analysts Group of New York meeting earlier this year.
When we add up the sales of all 100 companies ($305.5 billion), they collectively experienced a 3 percent increase in sales 2005 over 2004. However, in an ominous sign, six firms reported net losses in 2005, compared with four in our report last year.
Despite some clouds, 2006 is not all doom and gloom. Less than a month after getting its new CEO, Kraft reported in late July a 44 percent profit gain in its second quarter, and it raised its full-year earnings forecast. How’s that for a quick turnaround! And No. 32 Interstate Bakeries, the maker of Wonder Bread and Hostess Twinkies, reported just its second profitable month nearly two years into bankruptcy reorganization.
How we get our numbers
Admittedly, there’s a fair amount of subjectivity and hair-splitting that goes into this ranking. Despite financial accounting standards, every company does things a little differently. Sometimes we have to make an educated guess at what sales to include and which to exclude.
Our goal is a table that shows the 100 largest value-added food and beverage processors in the U.S. and Canada, the top producers (not necessarily marketers) of grocery store-ready packaged food products, as well as those products sold in semi-final – merely uncooked – form into the foodservice channel.
That means not counting the simple collection or transportation of agricultural commodities – which greatly reduces the figures of agrifood giants and dairy cooperatives such as Cargill and Dairy Farmers of America. That’s why you won’t even find Archer Daniels Midland on this chart. It also means focusing only on sales that come from U.S. and Canadian plants of multinationals – thus only the U.S. and Canadian operations of Nestle and Unilever are included.
That’s also why PepsiCo’s figure has been significantly cut from its worldwide total. On the other hand, we are forced to use net income figures from total operations, nonfood and worldwide sales included, because so few companies report profitability by segment or geography. We use the most recent fiscal years available. In all cases that was at least calendar 2005, although we were able to squeeze in some 2006 fiscal years before our deadline.
ACQUISITIONS CONTINUE TO DECLINE
Mergers and acquisitions in the food processing industry declined in 2005 for the second year in a row to the lowest number since 2000, according to figures from the Food Institute, Elmwood Park, N.J.(see table below).
Food processors closed 94 deals, the most in the Food Institute’s broader “food industry,” which includes everything from agricultural cooperatives to retailers. But the number is a far cry from the 168 mergers announced in 2000, the busiest year in the institute’s annual report “Food Business Mergers & Acquisitions 2005.” Another 21 deals were announced but not completed.
In the first half of 2006, the food processing segment picked up the pace slightly, closing 49 deals with 13 more pending. The Food Institute has been tracking mergers and acquisitions for 25 years.
Within the food processing segment in 2005, the two busiest categories showed increases. Multi-product companies were the busiest with 33 deals, up from 20 in 2004. Brewers, distillers and wineries also showed an increase, to 13, the most this category has experienced in the six-year history of this current report. Bakers, previously a quiet category, also recorded an increase (to nine transactions).
The categories of confectioners, dairy, fruits & vegetables, meat and “other” all decreased by about half.
Some of the bigger food processing deals included:
- Canada’s Molson Brewery and Adolph Coors Co. merged to form the world’s No. 5 brewer, with sales of about $6 billion.
- Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. purchased certain confectionery assets of Kraft Foods Global Inc. for $1.46 billion, giving it ownership of brands such as Altoids, Life Savers, Creme Savers and Sugus and various regional and local brands and additional production capabilities.
- Chiquita Brands International acquired pioneer packaged salad maker Fresh Express from Performance Food Group, which was expected to increase Chiquita’s consolidated annual revenues by about $1 billion.
- H.J. Heinz Co. completed its acquisition of the HP Foods Group from Groupe Danone S.A. for approximately $820 million in cash. Heinz got the Lea & Perrins brand plus other HP sauces and a license to market the Amoy Asian sauces brands in Europe.
- PepsiCo paid $750 million for General Mills Inc.’s 40.5 percent stake in the Snack Ventures Europe joint venture, giving PepsiCo control over Europe’s largest snack food company, which already markets Doritos, Fritos and Ruffles. PepsiCo later also bought Stacy’s Pita Co.
- Pilgrim’s Pride bought the last 15 million shares of its own common stock still held by ConAgra for $482.4 million.
The food processing number was in line with the aggregate numbers of the Food Institute’s broader food industry and most of the categories. Overall, 323 mergers and acquisitions closed in 2005, down 8 percent from the previous year and the fifth straight year of overall decline.
“[Overall] activity may have declined compared to previous years, but there were a number of significant transactions in several categories,” says Danielle Breuel, research and education director at the Food Institute.
The 166-page report can be purchased from the Food Institute web site (www.foodinstitute.com) or by calling 201-791-5570 ext. 16.
To access the table (a 2-page PDF) that lists our Top 100 companies and compares their 2005 and 2004 sales and income figures, click the Download Now button below.
Read about the Top 100. Access processor profiles ranked 1-25 here
. Access processor profiles ranked 26-50 here
. Access processor profiles 51-100 here