Natural Foods Merchandiser

Deals heat up at summer's end for naturals companies

Money made the naturals world go 'round in August, as a merger, a sale and a cash infusion were announced.

BC Natural Foods, the parent company of Coleman Natural Meats, Petaluma Poultry and Gerhard's Sausage, merged with a conventional meat supplier Aug. 22 to form Coleman Natural Foods.

The merger with Gainesville, Ga.-based KDSB Holdings creates a company with more than $500 million in assets, according to published reports. KDSB operates the Kings Delight and Snow Ball Foods divisions, whose products are primarily distributed through foodservice channels including schools, military posts and convenience stores.

Robyn Nick, a spokeswoman for Golden, Colo.-based Coleman, said the merger "gives us the opportunity to bring organic and natural products into new market channels, and to accelerate the development of natural and organic convenience products." She added, however, that the new company "will continue to focus on food retailers, which includes mainstream grocery stores," as well as naturals retailers.

"Coleman Natural Foods now ranks among the top 30 meat processors in the United States," Nick said. Mel Coleman Jr., chairman of Coleman Natural Meats, will assume the same title with Coleman Natural Foods. George Chivari, formerly president and chief executive of BC Natural Foods, now serves as president and CEO of the new company.

In 2005, Coleman Natural Products had estimated net sales of $100 million, according to The National Provisioner, a trade publication for meat, poultry and prepared food processors. Kings Delight had net sales of $125 million last year, and Snow Ball had $50 million in sales.

Larry's divvied up in sale
Larry's Markets, the upscale Seattle-area grocer that filed for bankruptcy protection in May, faced the chopping block last week and came out in five different parts.

After an initial offer was outbid in late August, the 42-year-old chain's six stores were sold to five different buyers. Only one or two are likely to keep the Larry's name for now, according to Larry's bankruptcy attorney Jay Kornfeld.

The Totem Lake and Bellevue stores, bought by TRF Pacific/TRF Northwest real estate entities for $3.8 million, will be closed and the locations re-rented.

The Queen Anne location sold for $1.6 million to Food Markets Northwest, owner of the five-store upscale grocery chain Metropolitan Markets in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. Kornfeld said Metropolitan Markets plans to run the Queen Anne location under the Larry's name for now.

The Tukwila location sold for about $200,000 to Tukwila Trading LLC, Kornfeld said. And the Redmond location sold to Associated Grocers, a cooperatively owned wholesaler, for approximately $440,000.

The north Seattle Larry's was purchased by Hop Thanh Supermarket Inc., which owns an Asian grocery in Seattle.

Glacéau vitamin water flush with capital
Glacéau, maker of vitaminwater, is being fortified by a cash infusion. The Tata Group agreed to invest $677 million to purchase the 30 percent stake in the company previously held by TSG Consumer Partners.

"We've had certain obstacles keeping retailers' shelves stocked to keep up with the explosive demand for vitaminwater," said J. Darius Bikoff, CEO of Whitestone, N.Y.-based Glacéau. "You're going to see a big initiative from us and our distributors expanding our presence, expanding our shelf space."

Mumbai, India-based Tata's 2005 revenues totaled $1.97 billion in the United States and $22 billion globally. Its beverage holdings include Tetley Tea, Good Earth Teas and Eight O'Clock Coffee.

Bikoff said Tata's background could enable Glacéau to move into the tea market. "They are probably one of the world's leading companies involved in the technology around polyphenols and [EGCG], which are the ingredients that … make tea so good for health," he said. "It is probably safe to say that we are very excited about tea."

Bikoff said his company has grown more than 200 percent annually and attributes that largely to the backlash against soda. "The enhanced water category … is the fastest-growing category in the entire beverage market in the United States."

Bikoff added that he would not rule out taking Glacéau public. "We have a lot of options open to us in the future, and an IPO is certainly one of them."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 10/p. 22

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