Conagra slides direct-to-store snacks division to Utz

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

Founded in 1921, Utz remains a privately-owned family business based in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Pic: John Lloyd/Flickr
Founded in 1921, Utz remains a privately-owned family business based in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Pic: John Lloyd/Flickr

Related tags Conagra Brands Snacks Potato chips pretzels Utz Quality Foods Utz M&A Snyder Pinnacle foods distribution network

Fresh off the heels of announcing a snacking innovation center in Chicago, the company will offload a part of the business it absorbed in the October 2018 deal with Pinnacle Foods.

The direct store delivery (DSD) line includes Tim’s Cascade Snacks, Erin’s Premium Popcorn, Hawaiian and Husman’s potato chips, as well as Snyder of Berlin. Conagra will hold onto other Pinnacle brands, such as Vlasic, Duncan Hines, Birds Eye and Aunt Jemima.

Subject to standard regulatory approval, both parties expect the deal to close by the end of this year.

“We continue to reshape our portfolio and focus our resources on priorities that support Conagra’s business strategy and create value for shareholders,”​ Conagra CEO Sean Connolly said.

He acknowledged the company’s established and blossoming focus on its snacks business, none of which falls into a DSD model: “We believe this business will have more opportunity for growth under Utz, an established DSD operator.”

Conagra confirmed to BakeryandSnacks that it had been operating this segment of Pinnacle’s brands ‘on a largely standalone basis’ and that Utz was better suited to grow them through its existing DSD channels. The decision was not affected by its forthcoming 40k-square-foot Center for Food Design​, announced earlier this month.

Utz operates 11 manufacturing sites in six states on top of its more than 1500 DSD routes, and CEO Dylan Lissette expressed excitement about these ‘important’ incoming names.

“These brands bring a strong consumer following and unique craft heritage,” ​he said. “Their distribution and manufacturing capabilities, along with their customer relationships, enhance our ability to further grow our brand portfolio further west.”

Conagra has no doubt sunk a big bite into its snacks arm in recent years, acquiring youthful but booming brands like Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP and Duke’s Jerky. Utz, meanwhile, has nurtured longstanding American snacking icons – including its namesake maker of chips, pretzels, crunchy corn snacks and more, plus Zapp’s and Dirty potato chips.

A family-owned business based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, Utz has lent its near-century of snacking experience to contemporary chip brands like Colorado’s Boulder Canyon. It scooped up TGI Friday's snack line and Nathan's Famous in a 2017 deal with Arizona-based Inventure Foods​.

Utz does not manufacture the other Snyder's – Snyder's of Hanover, now part of the Snyder-Lance portfolio owned by Campbell.

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