Brynwood Partners Shuffles Food Assets

Investment firm Brynwood Partners, which has substantial food holdings, had a busy year-end buying and selling food company assets in its portfolio. It’s hard to tell if its food holdings are bigger or smaller as a result of the shuffling.

Early in January, Brynwood Partners VII LP, a subsidiary company, announced it had acquired Joseph’s Pasta Co. from Nestlé Prepared Foods Co. Nestlé acquired Joseph’s in 2006. Terms and conditions of the transaction were not disclosed.

Another subsidiary, Brynwood Partners VI, over Christmas said it would sell DeMet’s Candy Co., maker of Turtles chocolate-nut clusters and Flipz chocolate-covered pretzels, to Turkey’s Yildiz Holdings for $221 million. Yildiz already owns Godiva Chocolatier, which it bought from Campbell Soup in 2008. Brynwood bought the Turtles brand from Nestle in 2007 and resurrected the dormant name DeMet’s, which invented Turtles a hundred years earlier.

A few days later, Brynwood VI engineered the acquisition of the SnackWell’s cookies and snacks business from Mondelez Global LLC. Terms and conditions of the transaction were not disclosed.

Snackwell’s will be under Back to Nature Foods Co. LLC, a portfolio company of Brynwood VI. Back to Nature was formed in 2012 as a joint venture between Brynwood VI and Mondelez Global “through an innovative structure, whereby Brynwood VI acquired operating control while Mondelez Global retained a minority position in the new company,” read a statement. Back to Nature was one of the original natural food brands in the U.S.

SnackWell’s was launched by Nabisco Inc. (which Kraft acquired) in 1992 as a line of reduced-fat and fat-free cookies and crackers, and it had huge success with its initial line of devil’s food chocolate cookies. Currently, SnackWell’s offers creme sandwich cookies, devil’s food cakes, fudge pretzels, yogurt pretzels, and popcorn products in portion-control sizes.

“We look forward to owning the SnackWell’s brand and integrating it into our Back to Nature organization,” said Vincent Fantegrossi, pres/CEO of Back to Nature. “Its healthy attributes, loyal consumer base, and strong distribution make SnackWell’s a very complementary product line offering to our Back to Nature products.”

Last September, Brynwood Partners VI bought Lightlife, one of ConAgra Foods’ smaller brands with product lines that include vegetarian-based burgers, hot dogs and other meatless frozen and refrigerated items. The acquisition includes the Lightlife manufacturing operation in Turners Falls, Mass. Terms were not disclosed.

Brynwood Partners, founded in 1984 and based in Greenwich, Conn., describes itself as an “operationally focused private equity fund that makes control investments in North American based lower middle market companies in the consumer sector,” especially smaller brands or businesses divested from large corporations. Other current and prior investments include TrueNorth nut-clusters and Kretschmer wheat germ (both acquired from PepsiCo), Balance Bar energy/nutrition bars (acquired from Kraft Foods) and Pearson’s Candy Co.

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