Food industry M&A hit a record total in 2017, reaching its highest point in over 15 years, according to The Food Institute’s recently released Food Business Mergers & Acquisitions 2017 report. Total deals for the year climbed to 591, moving well past 2016's high of 505 deals, but still remaining under 1999's record 813 deals.
Food processors took part in 191 deals in 2017, a 33.6 percent increase from 2016. Cargill, Nestle, Premium Brands Holdings and Unilever were the most active companies in the category, together making up 12 percent of food manufacturer acquisitions. Unilever continued to invest in small and artisanal brands in 2017, such as Sir Kensington's, Pukka Herbs, Mae Terra, Tazo, and Sun Basket. Other processors maintained their efforts to acquire smaller, artisanal and specialty brands, as well. General Mills' food incubator 301 Inc. invested in healthy snacking startup D's Naturals and acquired a minority stake in Purely Elizabeth; Campbell Soup Co. acquired Pacific Foods; Cargill invested in lab-grown meat producer Memphis Meats; Conagra Brands acquired snack makers Thanasi Foods LLC, Bigs LLC and Angie's Artisan Treats LLC; Dean Foods invested in milk alternative producer Good Karma; Hershey Co. acquired Amplify Snack Brands; and Nestle acquired Chameleon Cold-Brew, meatless frozen food maker Sweet Earth, and stakes in Blue Bottle Coffee and healthy ready meals group Freshly.
Acquisitions in the retailer category slowed down significantly in the past year, after hitting a high of 101 deals in 2016. Supermarket acquisitions dropped 39% in 2017 from the previous year, while convenience store acquisitions fell 54.4 percent. However, M&A in the ‘other retailers’ category, which includes dollar stores, drug stores and e-commerce retailers, increased slightly in 2017, and was host to one of the largest deals of the year in any category, Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods Market.
Investment firms and banks were busy as usual, involved in 109 deals in 2017, a 40 percent increase from the previous year, while the overall restaurant category saw a 22 percent increase from 2016 to 2017, driven by online foodservice businesses, which have been slowly ramping up M&A over the past few years.
Overall, food businesses are becoming more active in the M&A arena, as consumer tastes change and many large companies aim to acquire startups or competitors. With 2017 being the second year of almost triple digit growth in acquisitions, it will be increasingly important for food businesses to keep an eye on merger activity to see if it will continue to trend upwards, or if the industry has hit its M&A peak.
The Food Business Mergers & Acquisitions 2017 study recaps these deals, as well as many others that were announced and completed during the year, while also providing an outlook into 2018 and beyond. Alongside balance sheets and multiples charts, this publication offers information that can put a potential deal into better focus or provide a unique perspective with records of similar mergers.
For more information about Food Business Mergers & Acquisitions 2017 or to order the publication, please visit http://food1.co/mergers2017