Natural Foods Merchandiser

Coleman to sell beef business

By Hilary Oliver

Coleman Natural Foods, based in Golden, Colo., entered an agreement to sell its natural- and organic-beef business to Meyer Natural Angus of Loveland, Colo. The deal is expected to close June 1, though neither company released additional details by press time.

The sale will allow Coleman to focus on growth in its natural poultry, pork and prepared foods businesses, according to a press release. The statement also assured suppliers and customers that they can expect a "seamless transition" during and after the ownership transition.

Meyer Natural Angus has been producing natural beef, now also certified humane, since 1990. The company includes more than 200 ranchers and producers in the U.S. and recently expanded with its purchase of Lexington, Ky.-based Laura's Lean Beef in December 2007. Coleman has been producing natural beef since 1979 and is a prominent brand name in the natural beef industry.

"It's really the passing of an era," said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, based in Westminster, Colo., pointing out that Coleman Natural Foods founder Mel Coleman Sr. was the first to lobby the U.S. Department of Agriculture for natural-beef labeling standards. Speculating on a motivation for the sale, Carter explained that beef production is more complex compared to production of other proteins. "Meyer has made a commitment to focus strictly on beef, while over the last few years Coleman has become involved in poultry and pork, getting fairly widespread," he said. "[Coleman] might have thought they'd pull in the reins."

Rising grain costs, causing difficulties for many livestock producers, could also have been an underlying factor, Carter said.

Boyd Hoback, president and CEO of longtime Coleman beef buyer Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard, said some consumers—especially in Colorado—relate specifically to the Coleman brand. But he's not worried about the Coleman-beef brand name fading. "Meyer is a great company," Hoback said.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 5/p. 1

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