10 Acquisitions That Changed the Snacking Landscape in 2017

Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, CSProducts

c-store snacks

CHICAGO -- Years ago, it might have been surprising to hear about large snack manufacturers purchasing a smaller, natural or organic outfit. But in 2017, many of the major acquisitions in the category involved larger companies getting in on the better-for-you snacking trend by purchasing the makers of successful, healthier brands.

The consolidation in the snack and candy market is forcing new products made with alternative vegetables and unique flavors into the spotlight. Expect these acquisitions to help form the look (and taste) of new products hitting c-store shelves in the coming year and beyond.

Click through for a look at the most prominent acquisitions in this space from the past year ...

1. J&J Snack Foods acquires Labriola Baking Co.

Bavarian pretzel

In August, snack manufacturer J&J Snack Foods Corp. acquired the Labriola Baking Co., a premium bakery located outside Chicago in Alsip, Ill.

Labriola Baking began in 1993 as a local delivery bakery and has grown into a provider of prebaked breads, rolls and soft pretzels for retail in-store bakery and foodservice outlets nationwide.

“The Labriola Baking Co. was built upon high-quality, authentic products. We have been a longtime admirer of the company, and we’re eager to have Labriola join our J&J Snack Foods family of brands and bakeries,” said Jerry Law, senior vice president of J&J Snack Foods. “We look forward to marrying Labriola’s quality product offerings with our current portfolio, thus providing additional opportunities for our customers and consumers.”

2. Mondelez, Brynwood sell Back to Nature Foods Co.

mondelez products

Brynwood VI and Mondelez International sold Back to Nature Foods Co. LLC, Naples, Fla., to B&G Foods Inc. for $162.5 million. B&G Foods, Parsippany-Troy Hills, N.J., is home to several prominent c-store snack brands such as Ortega, Pirate Brands and more.

Brynwood VI and Mondelez, East Hanover, N.J., formed the Back to Nature joint venture in 2012. Brynwood VI, a subsidiary of private-equity firm Brynwood Partners, Greenwich, Conn., maintained operating control, while Mondelez held a minority position.

3. Utz acquires Inventure Foods

utz snack foods

A $165 million agreement combining Utz Quality Foods and Inventure Foods, announced in late October, linked two firms that offer diversified synergy: Inventure Foods, a company that is honing a specialty, better-for-you food reputation, and Utz, a manufacturer with a strong foothold in traditional snacks, such as potato chips, pretzels, cheese snacks, corn chips, tortillas, popcorn and more.

4. Mars takes minority stake in Kind

mars chocolate headquarters

Mars Inc. took a minority stake in Kind via a strategic partnership announced in November. The partnership will enable Kind to expand its healthy snacks and "social impact work" around the world, while allowing Mars to gain more presence in the growing healthy-snacks category. Mars’ investment gives Kind a valuation of more than $4 billion, five times its value three years ago, according to The New York Times.

Kind will continue to operate independently out of its New York headquarters, led by its majority stakeholders, company founder Daniel Lubetzky and the current Kind team. As part of the agreement, Mars will lead the growth of the Kind business outside the United States and Canada.

5. The Ferrero Group buys Ferrara Candy Co.

ferrero rocher

The Ferrero Group, maker of confectionery brands Kinder and Tic Tac, acquired the Ferrara Candy Co. at the end of October. Ferrara Candy is the maker of Red Hots, Trolli gummy candy, Black Forest Organic and Brach's. Ferrero entered into the agreement with the private-equity company and owner of Ferrara, L Catterton.

Ferrara will remain a separate business unit and keep its headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

6. Kellogg acquires maker of RXbar

Rx bar

Kellogg entered into an agreement in October to acquire Chicago Bar Co. LLC, maker of RXbar, a line of clean-label protein bars made with whole ingredients. RXbar will continue to operate independently as a stand-alone business and will be able to leverage Kellogg's scale and resources to continue driving growth, the companies said.

7. Conagra to acquire maker of Boomchickapop

conagra logo

Conagra Brands Inc. entered into a definitive agreement in October to acquire Angie's Artisan Treats LLC, the maker of Angie's Boomchickapop ready-to-eat popcorn, from TPG Growth. Financial terms of the agreement, which will finalize by the end of the calendar year, were not disclosed.

"Adding the Angie's Boomchickapop brand to Conagra's portfolio is another important step in our ongoing plan to modernize our portfolio and accelerate growth," said Sean Connolly, president and CEO of Conagra Brands, Chicago. "The Angie's Boomchickapop business is a leader in the fast-growing, better-for-you snacking segment. It will be a great complement to our growing snack business."

8. Conagra Brands to acquire Thanasi Foods

conagra logo

In March, Conagra Brands Inc. also entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Thanasi Foods LLC, maker of Duke's meat snacks and Bigs seeds.

Duke's is a prominent convenience-store meat-snack brand that is growing due to consumers' desire for better-for-you, artisanal and protein-packed products. And Bigs is known for its premium seed snacks, including jumbo in-shell sunflower seeds, sunflower seed kernels and roasted pumpkin seeds.

9. Campbell to Acquire Snyder’s-Lance Inc.

snyders-lance brands

In December, the Campbell Soup Co. and Snyder’s-Lance Inc. entered into an agreement in which Campbell will acquire Snyder’s-Lance for $50 per share in an all-cash transaction.

Snyder’s-Lance is a prominent snacking company in the convenience-store space with a portfolio of brands that includes Snyder’s of Hanover, Lance, Kettle Brand, Kettle Chips, Cape Cod, Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Pop Secret, Emerald and Late July.

The acquisition combines the strengths of both organizations to drive sales growth and expand Campbell’s footprint in the $89 billion U.S. snacking market, according to the company. 

10. Hershey to Acquire Amplify Snack Brands

hershey's bar

Also in December, The Hershey Co. and Amplify Snack Brands Inc. entered into a definitive agreement in which Hershey will acquire all outstanding shares of Amplify for $12 per share in cash. Amplify Snack Brands is behind growing snack brands Skinny Pop, Paqui chips, Oatmega healthy snack bars and Tyrrell's potato chips.

“The acquisition of Amplify and its product portfolio is an important step in our journey to becoming an innovative snacking powerhouse, as together it will enable us to bring scale and category management capabilities to a key subsegment of the warehouse snack aisle,” said Michele Buck, president and CEO of Hershey. “Hershey’s snack mix and meat snacks products, combined with Amplify’s ... brands, will allow us to capture more consumer snacking occasions by creating a broader portfolio of brands.”