Lifeway Buys Rival

February 9/Chicago/Chicago Tribune -- Lifeway Foods Inc. is looking to extend its realm with the $14 million purchase of Philadelphia-based Fresh Made Inc.

The deal is the second major acquisition in the last three years for Lifeway. In 2006, it paid $8.6 million for Minnesota-based Helios Nutrition, the leading maker of organic kefir. Kefir is a drinkable yogurt.

Publicly traded Lifeway, which also makes farmer's cheese, a soft cheese used in fillings, had almost $34 million in revenue through the first nine months of last year. Privately held Fresh Made, also a farmer's cheese manufacturer, had about $10 million in annual sales last year, said Julie Smolyansky, Lifeway's chief executive.

Although Lifeway has more of a national presence, Fresh Made is big in three or four states on the East Coast.

After the Fresh Made deal, "There [are] really no other acquisitions out there" to make in the kefir business, Smolyansky said.

From the February 16, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition