Hearthside Food Solutions, one of the largest independent bakeries in the US, has established a significant footprint in Europ with the acquisition of VSI, an in the Netherlands based manufacturer of nutrition bars. The transaction was advised by M&A advisors from four external firms: EY, PwC and law firms Stibbe and Nauta Dutilh.
In recent years, Hearthside Food Solutions has grown to become the largest contract manufacturer for the food industry in the US, working for several of the world's premier food companies. In 2009 the company had four manufacturing plants and over 2,000 employees, a year later Hearthside Food Solutions had more than doubled in size. In 2013 the firm merged with Ryt-way Industries, a major contract packaging firm, bringing the total number of production facilities to 19, spanning eight states and employing over 7,500 full-time workers.
On the back of its impressive growth trajectory, Hearthside Food Solutions attracted interest from a number of private equity firms, and in June 2014 the company was acquired by the investment arm of Goldman Sachs and Vestar Capital Partners in a deal reported to be worth more than $1.1 billion. Under the wings of the new investors Hearthside Food Solutions set ambitious growth targets, of which expansion into Europe was one of the main strategic pillars.
Last week, just over a year after its change of ownership, the Downers Grove (Illinois) headquartered company announced that it has successfully entered the European market through the acquisition of VSI (‘Vurense Snack Industrie’). Founded in 1976 in the Netherlands, VSI started off as a producer of sausage rolls and other puff pastry products. In 1987 it installed its first bar production line, and since it has focused exclusively on the production of functional nutrition bars, working for both brand owners and private labels*. The Leerdam based company, a city in the periphery of cosmopolitan Rotterdam, currently employs over 200 employees.
With the move, which involved buying a majority stake from NPM Capital* (an Amsterdam-based venture capitalist) and other shares from minority owners, Hearthside Food Solutions gains access to the European market for functional foods, and in particular nutrition bars. In VSI’s case, the divestment offers it a range of new growth opportunities, enabling it to, under the wings of its new American owner, expand into lucrative North American market. “The new American owner is looking for a strategic partner to achieve accelerated growth in Europe. VSI in turn gets direct access to the U.S., an advantage that can accelerate its growth ambitions on the continent,” comments Rutger Ruigrok, Investment Director at NPM Capital.
The transaction process – which is still subject to antitrust clearance and custom closing conditions – was supported by advisors from four external firms. Seller NPM Capital received financial advisory support from PwC’s Corporate Finance team in the Netherlands (lead partner: Joris van de Kerkhof), while local law firm Nauta Dutilh provided legal support (lead partner: Jeroen Preller). Buyer Hearthside Foods was advised by M&A consultants from EY (financial advisory and transaction support) and M&A lawyers from Stibbe.
“This is truly a unique opportunity for all the parties involved,” concludes Gerard Janssens, CEO of VSI.
* NPM Capital bought a controlling stake in VSI in 2012.