The acquisition came only a week after Thanasi’s brand Duke’s debuted its shorty sausages and brisket products at the recent Expo West in Anaheim, California.
Havlick said the deal had been in negotiation for several months but has recently come to an agreement. The transaction is expected to be finalised by the summer.
“We are really excited to sign the agreement to be ConAgra’s partner,” he told BakeryandSnacks.
“We really see an alignment of philosophy on our brands and ConAgra’s ability to potentially help us from an innovation standpoint.”
Havlick said his role after the completion of the transaction is yet to be determined. However, he believes "I’ll certainly be involved in the future growth of our brands, and I think that’s an important asset of our organization,” he said.
“We have the ability to get to know [ConAgra] well, and understand who they are on the leadership team. We’re also aware of the important attributes of our brands [and will be instrumental in maintaining them] in the future, such as quality ingredients and craft methods,” he said.
ConAgra fosters innovation
ConAgra currently manages the Slim Jim meat stick brand, as well as the David Seeds brand.
Through the Thanasi acquistion, it has now added a further seed brand, Bigs, to its portfolio.
Thanasi’s headquarter office will remain in Boulder, Colorado, however, the details of manufacturing synergy between the two companies have not yet been made available.
Premium meat snacks outgrow regular brands
Havlick said this is an exciting time for the premium meat snack category.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see further acquisitions in the space from large organizations looking to align with brands [who demonstrate the] premium snacking ethos," he said.
In recent years, several major CPG companies have taken advantage of the growing meat snack category by purchasing smaller-scale brands.
For example, Hershey bought Krave Jerky in early 2015. The jerky category leader, Jack Link’s, swallowed the supplier of grass-fed beef, Grass Run Farms, and developed its own chef-inspired range, Lorissa’s Kitchen , last year.
Premium meat snacks also outgrew their regular counterparts, according to the market research firm IRI.
In the jerky category, Jack Link’s posted sales of around $0.8bn, according to IRI data for the latest 52 weeks ending October 2, 2016. However, that represents a 7.35% decline compared to the last period.
ConAgra-owned Slim Jim’s sales grew by 9.11% during the same period, compared to Krave with a 70.96% growth rate.
Other dried meat snacks within the ConAgra’s portfolio are worth around $0.6bn with an annual compound growth of 4.90%, IRI data showed. Duke’s, on the other hand, grew by 42.86% in terms of sales.
Premium jerky brands, Oberto Jerky and Chef’s Cut Real Jerky, outgrew the whole category with annual sales increases of 378.90% and 314.53%, respectively.