Utz Quality Foods, LLC, the largest independent salty snack company in the United States, and Metropoulos & Co., the family-owned investment firm specializing in iconic American brands and assets, have formed a strategic partnership, with Metropoulos & Co. making a significant investment in the 95-year-old company. The Rice family, which has owned and operated the business for four generations, continues to be the controlling and majority shareholders.
Utz, which recently acquired Golden Enterprises, the Birmingham, Alabama producer of snacks under the popular Golden Flake brand in the southern United States, is expected to generate approximately $800 million in combined sales in 2017. Over the past five years, the company has made several other key acquisitions, broadening its brand portfolio to include Good Health, Bachman, Zapp's, "Dirty", Snikiddy and Wachusett and expanding its distribution and geographic footprint.
The Metropoulos & Co. investment, which was used to finance Utz's acquisition of Golden Flake, is the largest initial private equity transaction for a U.S. snack company since 2013, when Metropoulos and Apollo Global Management invested in Hostess Brands. With extensive consumer products knowledge, operational expertise and flexible capital, Metropoulos & Co. is well-known for its past work with such brands as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ghirardelli Chocolates, Bumble Bee Foods, Vlasic Pickles, Chef Boyardee and Perrier-Jouet/Mumm, among many others.
"Nearly a century ago, the Utz company was born in a small town kitchen by an entrepreneurial couple, Bill and Salie Utz, who created a fast-growing business making fresh potato chips for local markets with an intense focus on premier quality products," said Dylan Lissette, President & CEO of Utz. "For the past 95+ years, Utz has not only defied the odds as a successful family-owned business, we have thrived, by continuously reinvesting in our company, expanding our offerings and reach through key acquisitions, and never deviating from our core values and our commitment to our people and our high quality products.
"As we assessed the huge potential of our business, we considered many possible partners who we could work with to strengthen our ability to continue the momentum, help optimize and expand the frontiers of opportunity and continue our strong growth," he added. "As we got to know the Metropoulos team and talked with many who have worked with them previously, it became clear they were not your typical investment firm. In addition to being a true family-owned firm, their expertise in operations, brand expansion, innovation, growth and acquisition integration, combined with shared family values and a passion for heritage brands, made this opportunity very unique. We are excited to continue to lead this company forward, working closely with our new partners as we enter this new chapter of Utz expansion, reinvestment and growth."
"Under the family's strong stewardship, Utz has quietly grown into a snack powerhouse, expanding its product portfolio and geographic reach, while remaining true to its core beliefs and storied history," said Evan Metropoulos, principal of Metropoulos & Co. "We are delighted to unite our talents, under a shared respect for great American entities, to celebrate and build upon the brand's legacy, while helping to chart an exciting course forward."
"We look forward to working closely with Utz's management team to develop creative product innovation, capture new consumers and generations of snackers with strategic guerrilla marketing and branding, and to broaden Utz distribution nationally, while enhancing overall operations and focusing on future strategic acquisitions," added Daren Metropoulos, principal at Metropoulos & Co. "Our family is excited to be a part of Utz's future and feel grateful for the partnership with the Rice & Lissette family."
"We believe the strength and rich heritage of the Utz family and management team, combined with the expertise of the Metropoulos team, will further elevate this company's leadership in the salty snack category," said Anand Gowda, President & Managing Partner of Metropoulos & Co., who heads the firm's private equity team with Cary Devore and Patrick Cook.