Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hain Celestial to buy WhiteWave tofu business

Broomfield-based WhiteWave Foods Co. agreed May 30 to sell its tofu and meat-alternative business to Hain Celestial Group Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

The products, sold under the names TofuTown and WhiteWave, include tofu, seitan and tempeh. WhiteWave reported sales of about $8 million in tofu products in its last fiscal year.

The acquisition, expected to close this month, continues the expansion of meat-free offerings Hain Chief Executive Irwin Simon began last year. Hain, the biggest U.S. maker of organic products, bought meat-free and dairy-free food maker Haldane Foods Ltd. in the United Kingdom from Archer Daniels Midland Co. and the Linda McCartney frozen vegetarian food line from H.J. Heinz Co.

"Adding the tofu and meat-alternative business from WhiteWave Foods complements our existing Yves Veggie Cuisine product line, strengthening and expanding our fresh, meat-free alternative product offerings to further support this sector of the growing natural and organic market," Simon said in a statement. "Purchasing this business will better position the company to increase our meat-free alternative product sales in Canada and the United States."

Melville, N.Y.-based Hain also owns brands such as Celestial Seasonings, Terra Chips, Garden of Eatin', Health Valley, WestSoy, Arrowhead Mills and Rice Dream.

The deal marks the first time in its 30-year history that WhiteWave will no longer sell tofu products. But shedding that part of the business will allow the company to focus on its four core dairy products: Silk, Horizon Organic, International Delight and Land O' Lakes.

"Our strategic focus lies with these dairy-case brands," said WhiteWave spokeswoman Molly Keveney. "These four brands have been our primary business since 2005. As a result, we'd been looking at a buyer for the tofu business since then. We're happy to see that it could stay with a natural foods company," of the quality of the Hain group.

Keveney says WhiteWave has a "busy summer" in the works with the launch of several new products. New Silk Plus products with omega-3 and fiber are available now. Horizon Organic milk with DHA, which has been in stores on the East and West coasts since March, will be available in the mountain region in August. Keveney said additional new Silk Plus items will be announced later this year, but she wouldn't reveal details.

All 47 employees at the company's Boulder, Colo., factory have received an offer to stay on with Hain, and the factory will remain open, Keveney said.

WhiteWave founder Steve Demos sold the company in 2002 to Dallas-based Dean Foods, which bought Horizon Organic Dairy a couple of years later.

Hain is not buying the WhiteWave trademark, but will market products under the brand for a yearlong transitional period.

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