Posted on February 4, 2016

Private equity firm closes deal on organic, natural food brands co.

PANOS brands owns more than a dozen 'better-for-you' food brands

Private equity firm, Hammond, Kennedy, Whitney & Company, Inc. (HKW) said Wednesday it closed on its acquisition of PANOS brands, LLC, a branded consumer foods company in the specialty, natural, organic and mass grocery channels with about $50 million in annual sales.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. PANOS, founded in 2007 and headquartered in Rochelle Park, N.J., was a portfolio company of High Road Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in New York City.

High Road had purchased PANOS in 2010 for $22 million from Royal Wessanen nv, a leading company in the European organic food market, and the former owner of Tree of Life, a major distributor of organic and natural foods that is now owned by KeHe Distributors.

"We are excited to move forward with HKW as PANOS embarks on its next phase of growth," said PANOS CEO Steven Grossman. "HKW’s collaborative approach, vision for value creation, and their reputation as a trusted partner resonated very well with our management team."

PANOS – an acronym for Premium, Authentic, Natural, Organic and Specialty foods – owns the Swans Gardens brand of organic hummus products as well as KA-ME Asian cuisine, Andrew & Everett snack cheese products, Sesmark crackers, MI-DEL cookies, Soy Kaas soy cheese alternatives, Amore gourmet pastes, Better Than Milk soy and rice beverages, Downey’s liquor cakes, Tap ‘n Apple spreads, Mr. Sprinkles festive sprinkles, VeganRella cheese alternative blocks, TofuRella cheese alternative products, Yankee Clipper seafood products, and Chatfield’s baking ingredients and hot beverage mixes.

“The PANOS opportunity met all the key criteria for an HKW investment,” said John Carsello, partner at Indianapolis, Ind.-based HKW. “The company participates in the attractive health and wellness niche of the food industry and has an excellent track record of growth."

HKW also owns NaturMed, Inc., a distributor and marketer of specialized nutritional and health supplements.

Harris Williams & Co., a middle market investment bank, was High Road’s partner in the transaction.

“Consumers continue to embrace natural, organic, non-GMO, better for you and free from products that are consistent with healthier lifestyles,” said Ryan Budlong, a managing director at Harris Williams. “Harris Williams & Co. continues to see exceptionally strong buyer interest in food companies that are well positioned within the better for you food category.”

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