Packaged foods giant Conagra Brands Inc. is buying Minnesota-based Angie’s Artisan Treats, maker of the ready-to-eat popcorn brand Boomchickapop, to help energize its more traditional food portfolio.
Conagra is based in Chicago and owns brands like Marie Callender’s, Hunt’s, Healthy Choice, Slim Jim and Orville Redenbacher’s. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is expected to close by the end of the year.
“Adding the Angie’s Boomchickapop brand to Conagra’s portfolio is another important step in our ongoing plan to modernize our portfolio and accelerate growth,” Sean Connolly, president and chief executive of Conagra Brands, said in a statement.
He called Angie’s a leader in “better-for-you snacking.”
“It will be a great complement to our growing snack business,” Connolly added.
Angie’s makes more than a dozen flavors of its bagged popcorn, including sea salt and vinegar, dill pickle, salted caramel and dark chocolaty drizzled sea salt kettle corn. While not organic, the brand caters to more health-conscious and natural-foods consumers. Its products are all non-GMO, made with whole grains and free of gluten, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors.
The move is the latest example of mega food companies’ growing interest in startup brands that resonate with consumers who are increasingly distrustful of overly processed foods. General Mills in recent years has acquired a number of such brands, like Larabar, Cascadian Farm Organic and Food Should Taste Good, under its Small Planet Foods division.
Erin Lash, a food industry analyst with Morningstar, expected Conagra might soon make acquisitions in the natural and organic food space.
“We view expansion into this segment as more likely given the more attractive mid- to high single-digit growth prospects the category is expected to enjoy,” Lash wrote in a note last November. “Our contention aligns with some of its recent new products … as examples of its efforts to bring on-trend products to market.”
As proof of this push into newer, growing segments, Lash cited Conagra’s launch of Pam Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Healthy Choice Café Simply Steamers, which is organic, non-GMO and natural, and contains no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors.
Husband and wife Dan and Angie Bastian started Boomchickapop in their Mankato garage in 2001. The two began tinkering with popcorn recipes that they would feel good about feeding to their children. The company grew quickly, evolving from an outdoor vendor of kettle corn at festivals and fairs to a significant retail brand sold in natural foods, grocery and mass merchandising outlets in all 50 states, Canada, South Korea, Peru, the Caribbean and Mexico.
The company has dual headquarters in North Mankato and Minneapolis. In 2014, TPG Growth, a business unit of the world’s largest private equity firm, took a controlling stake in Angie’s. At that time, Angie’s employed about 150 people.
“We’re focused on partnering with high growth, dynamic brands that distinctly resonate with today’s and tomorrow’s consumer. Angie’s Boomchickapop is a great example of this — its commitment to great taste and authenticity has enabled it to flourish as an adored consumer brand in the better-for-you snacking space. We wish them continued success with Conagra,” Mark Grabowski, a partner at TPG Growth, said in a statement.
“The Angie’s Boomchickapop business has achieved exceptional growth through great teamwork between our team, Angie and Dan Bastian, our founders, as well as support from TPG Growth. The business has thrived, but is still in the early innings of realizing its full potential,” said Mark Zurcher, chief executive of Angie’s Artisan Treats.
Loyal fans of niche brands are often skeptical of Big Food companies taking over their beloved smaller companies. Angie’s did not make Dan or Angie Bastian available for an interview Friday but did provide a statement addressing those concerns.
“Fans can expect us to continue to be a brand dedicated to snacks that you can feel good about feeding your family,” said Angie Bastian in the statement. “We often hear from our fans that they wish they could find more of our flavors in more stores. Being part of Conagra will allow us to do just that.”
The company declined to say what the sale could mean for its headquarters location or workforce numbers.
Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767