March 22 • 04:18 AM

Vlasic poised for new owner

Conagra to acquire popular pickle producer

It's not apparent what impact a proposed acquisition of Pinnacle Foods, Vlasic's parent company, could have on the Imlay City facility—one of Lapeer County's largest employers. photo by Maria Brown.

July 04, 2018
IMLAY CITY — Vlasic Pickles is poised to have a new owner by year's end. Last week, the pickle maker's parent company, Pinnacle Foods, announced it would be acquired by Conagra Brands for $10.9 billion in cash and stock.

"Today's transaction provides Pinnacle Foods shareholders with substantial and immediate value, as well as the opportunity to participate in the significant upside potential of the combined company," said Pinnacle Foods chief executive officer Mark Clouse.

"Because of our employees' incredible work, Pinnacle's total shareholder return is approximately 275 percent since our IPO (initial public offering), and today marks an important milestone in the company's journey. The portfolios and capabilities of both enterprises are impressive and complementary. We look forward to working through a seamless transition with the Conagra Brands team."

Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer of Conagra Brands, said his company looks forward to expand its presence in frozen foods and snacks thanks to the acquisition.

This isn't the first time in recent history that a buyer for Pinnacle Foods has stepped forward, but the most recent transaction with Hillshire fell apart before the merger could be finalized in 2014.

Less than two months after Pinnacle announced its pending sale to Hillshire Brands, the New Jersey-based food company exercised their right to terminate the merger and, as a result, collect a $163 million cash payment. Pinnacle is the parent company of Vlasic Pickles, whose flagship plant in Imlay City is one of Lapeer County's largest employers.

The deal fell apart when Hillshire was itself acquired by Tyson Foods that same year.

In 2013, Pinnacle made significant investments into its Imlay City processing plant. Governor Rick Snyder and other local officials officially commemorated the $14 million facility expansion in August which resulted in the creation of 29 full-time and 500 seasonal jobs. As part of a corporate restructuring in 2012, Pinnacle opted to close a Vlasic plant in Delaware and make the Blacks Corners Road facility its flagship for pickle production. Tax abatements, a state grant, a personal property tax exemption and a ten-year contract agreement by the employees' union helped entice Pinnacle to stay in Michigan. The Imlay City plant produces more than 150 million jars of pickle products annually.

In 2017, Pinnacle saw their grocery segment sales, which include Vlasic products, grow by 4.4 percent.

Late last year, Pinnacle Foods was named Processor of the Year by Food Processing magazine.

Pinnacle Foods was created in 2001 and, throughout the years, has built its brand portfolio to include Hungry Man frozen dinners, Open Pit barbeque sauce and Birds Eye frozen vegetables.

The company has seen recent success with those "clean and convenient" products offered through Birds Eye, Udi's/Glutino (gluten-free) and Gardein (meatless) brands.

Pinnacle Foods became a fully public corporation in 2015.

Conagra Brands is headquartered in Chicago and employs more than 13,000 people in 40 locations across the country. Their product offerings include many well-known products including Healthy Choice, Hunt's, Marie Callender's and Orville Redenbacher.

Conagra currently has a production facility in Quincy, Michigan. According to a filing with the state's Workforce Development Agency, the company closed its cereal and snack bar plant in Grand Rapids in 2014, resulting in the loss of 260 jobs.

According to a joint press release from the two companies, the terms of the transaction call for Pinnacle Foods shareholders to receive $43.11 per share in cash and 0.6494 shares of Conagra Brands common stock for each share of Pinnacle Foods held.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.
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