PITTSBURGH & CHICAGO — The Kraft Heinz Co. is selling a sizable piece of its cheese business to a U.S. affiliate of France’s Groupe Lactalis for $3.2 billion.
The transaction includes Kraft Heinz’s natural, grated, cultured and specialty cheese businesses in the United States, the grated cheese business in Canada and the entire international cheese business outside these two countries. The deal includes the following brands: Breakstone’s, Knudsen, Polly-O, Athenos, Hoffman’s and Cracker Barrel in the United States only, and Cheez Whiz outside the United States and Canada.
In addition, Kraft Heinz will partner with Groupe Lactalis on a perpetual license for Kraft in natural, grated and international cheeses and Velveeta in shredded and international cheeses.
Kraft Heinz will retain the Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Kraft Singles, Velveeta Processed Cheese and Cheez Whiz Processed Cheese businesses in the United States and Canada; the Kraft, Velveeta and Cracker Barrel Mac & Cheese businesses worldwide; and the Kraft Sauces business worldwide.
“We believe these cheese and dairy businesses will thrive in the hands of a global dairy company like Groupe Lactalis,” said Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio. “At the same time, the transaction will enable us to build sustainable competitive advantage in businesses where we have stronger brand equity, greater growth prospects and can use our manufacturing scale and consumer-based platforms approach.”
As outlined in a new Kraft Heinz operating model, platform roles will help guide resource allocation and investment decisions. Kraft Heinz will focus on growth areas and take strategic action where appropriate. This will help to accrete the company’s growth profile, enhance strategic focus and create shareholder value, the company said.
Under the terms of the agreement, Chicago-based Kraft Heinz will sell production facilities located in Tulare, Calif.; Walton, N.Y.; and Wausau, Wis., and a distribution center in Weyauwega, Wis. These facilities and their employees will continue to operate in ordinary course. Approximately 750 employees will be transferred from Kraft Heinz to Groupe Lactalis.
“This combination of complementary offerings is a clear strategic and cultural fit that will create important new opportunities for domestic and international expansion, product innovation, and positive community and employee impact,” said Thierry Clément, CEO of Lactalis North America. “We look forward to working with and learning from our new colleagues, building on our proud histories together and continuing our collaborative strategy for expansion: to invest, to include, to support, and to grow.”
The cheese businesses being sold contributed approximately $1.8 billion to Kraft Heinz’s net sales for the 12 months ended June 27, 2020. The transaction valuation represents an approximate 12x multiple of adjusted EBITDA for the standalone business. With headquarters in both Chicago and Pittsburgh, Kraft Heinz expects to use post-tax transaction proceeds primarily to pay down debt.
The U.S. brand portfolio of Buffalo, N.Y.-based Lactalis North America includes Président, Galbani, Parmalat, Stonyfield Organic, siggi’s, Karoun, rondele and Black Diamond. Lactalis currently has eight plants in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Idaho, Arizona and California.
The proposed transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2021, subject to regulatory review and approval. RBC Capital Markets LLC served as exclusive financial advisor to Kraft Heinz for this transaction, while Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP served as their legal advisors.