Founded in 1960, Back to Nature is one of the original natural food brands in the United States. The joint venture will initially offer Back to Nature products in four categories: (i) crackers, (ii) cookies, (iii) trail mixes & nuts and (iv) granola, while management of the Back to Nature macaroni and cheese business will remain with Kraft Foods. An iconic natural and organic brand, Back to Nature products are widely distributed in the U.S. through retailers in the natural, food, drug, mass and club channels.
As part of the transaction, Brynwood VI will appoint Vincent Fantegrossi as president and CEO of the new company. Fantegrossi previously served as president and CEO of Richelieu Foods, Inc., a Brynwood Partners V L.P. investment that returned over six times total invested capital and generated a gross internal rate of return of over 40% for the fund. Under Brynwood V's ownership, Richelieu Foods' sales grew from $100 million to over $250 million.
"We are excited to announce the Back to Nature transaction and are honored that Kraft Foods selected Brynwood VI as its joint venture partner," said Henk Hartong III, senior managing partner of Brynwood VI. Hartong III continued, "We look forward to growing the Back to Nature brand and helping it to achieve even greater success in both the natural and mainstream channels through select new product and new category introductions, while staying true to the mission of giving people truly flavorful, wholesome foods made with simple ingredients. We are excited to work with Kraft in this unique joint venture between a private equity firm and a consumer products company formed to maximize the value of a smaller brand in its portfolio."
In each of these transactions, Brynwood Partners acquired the entire business. In the case of Back to Nature, Brynwood VI will acquire operating control, but will partner with Kraft Foods to maximize the value of the new company. Brynwood VI will have the opportunity to apply its operating discipline in partnership with a leading consumer products company.
"This deal has a unique structure where a large consumer company like Kraft Foods has identified a way to partner with a specialist like Brynwood Partners to increase growth of a non-core asset while maintaining a significant financial interest," continued Hartong III. "We think that this is a very forward-looking concept, and we are delighted to be Kraft's partner."