Marfrig, ADM plant-based venture expands with 2 North American acquisitions

Dive Brief:

  • PlantPlus Foods, a joint venture created by Archer Daniels Midland and beef processor Marfrig Global Foods, is acquiring DEW Drink Eat Well LLC, maker of Hilary’s brand veggie burgers, and Sol Cuisine Ltd., a Canadian manufacturer of branded and private label plant-based products.
  • Terms were not disclosed for the Drink Eat Well transaction. PlantPlus is acquiring Sol Cuisine in a deal valued at approximately 125.4 Canadian dollars (over $100 million) and is expected to close in first-quarter 2022, according to a press release
  • The acquisitions give PlantPlus an immediate foothold in the plant-based market in North America, with assets that provide broad exposure to branded and private-label products. It also provides the potential for complementary products developed in-house by the ingredients giant and Brazil-based meat producer that tap the experience of Hilary’s and Sol Cuisine.

Dive Insight:

When Marfrig and ADM first launched PlantPlus, the companies positioned the joint venture’s growth strategy as one rooted in product development. ADM would supply ingredients for its upcoming plant-based meat products, while Marfrig would produce, distribute and sell them. The acquisition of Hilary’s and Sol Cuisine suggests that PlantPlus also recognizes the value of M&A in helping it quickly ramp up in a category that has attracted attention from nearly every major player in the food industry. 

Hilary’s, based in Lawrence, Kansas, has made a name for itself in plant based with its frozen veggie burgers free from the top 12 common food allergens and its status as a Certified B Corp. The company’s product line has since expanded into sausage patties. The company has attracted some investor interest over the past few years, raising just shy of $4 million, according to Crunchbase. In 2017, investment firm VG Growth Partners made a “significant” capital investment and became a strategic advisor.

That said, having access to Marfrig and ADM’s production, distribution and technical resources through PlantPlus will provide an invaluable boost to the brand. When Hilary’s announced its 2017 funding news, it also noted it had the top-selling plant-based burger in natural food stores, citing SPINS data. Four years later, the landscape has dramatically shifted, with players such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, CPG giants like Nestlé and Unilever, and countless startups entering the space.

Founded more than 30 years ago, Sol Cuisine has grown into a major manufacturer of private-label plant-based products ever since it entered that space in 2012. Its retailer partners include Target with its Good and Gathered label and Whole Foods Market and its 365 brand. According to an August investor presentation, private label supplied 47% of the company’s revenue in 2020, followed by branded retail in Canada under the Sol Cuisine label (26%) and foodservice sales (21%). U.S. retail sales rang up at only 6% share.

While Sol Cuisine has been busy over the past year, debuting bagged appetizers and entrees, expanding its e-commerce footprint and closing its own $10 million funding round, its acquisition by PlantPlus could mark a new era of growth for the company, according to founder and president Dror Balshine.

“By partnering with PlantPlus Foods, Sol Cuisine gains additional tools to scale, including capital, access to best-in-class ingredient suppliers and technologies, and the backing of premier operations and leading food technologies,” he said. “We look forward to building the future of the Company together based on a mutual commitment to producing plant-based foods that are both superior in taste and uncompromising in nutrition.”

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