Campbell Buying Bolthouse Farms

Soup Marketer Seeks Bigger Presence in Fresh Foods

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Campbell Soup Co., the world's largest soup maker, has agreed to buy Bolthouse Farms for about $1.55 billion to bolster its juice business.

Bolthouse, which is based in California and employs about 2,100 people, sells fresh carrots, beverages and salad dressings as well as private-label products. Bolthouse had sales of $689 million and earnings before interest and taxes of $79 million in its fiscal year ended March 31, New Jersey-based Campbell said today in a statement. Bolthouse is being bought from private-equity fund Madison Dearborn Partners.

Buying Bolthouse will strengthen Campbell's U.S. beverage division, which makes the V8 brand of juice and accounted for about 10% of sales in the year ended July 31. That unit was Campbell's fastest-growing last quarter, generating $208 million in revenue.

The ad agency for Bolthouse is Goodness Manufacturing, an independent Los Angeles-based shop founded by former staffers of CP&B, which previously held the account. Campbell's lead agencies are Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, and WPP's Y&R, New York.

Previous management at Campbell had considered bids for Bolthouse and passed, a person familiar with the matter said last week. Campbell CEO Denise Morrison, who took over last year, was more interested than predecessor Doug Conant, said the person. On a call with analysts, Ms. Morrison framed the acquisition as a move to capitalize on the growing demand for fresh, healthful and convenient foods, especially among millennials. "Bolthouse Farms offers Campbell a unique platform in this rapidly growing category," she said. "It is a one-of -a-kind food and beverage company that has focused on developing, manufacturing and marketing high-value-added, natural, healthy and fresh products."

Private-equity firms such as Ares Management and Advent International Corp. also explored bids for Bolthouse, a person familiar with the matter said last week.

Bolthouse's roots date back almost a century, when the family of the same name began commercial vegetable farming in Michigan, according to the company's website. Madison Dearborn, founded 20 years ago in Chicago, acquired Bolthouse in 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The buyout firm's other investments have included pay-as-you-go wireless carrier MetroPCS Communications and LA Fitness International, a North American chain of gyms.

-- Bloomberg news --

Contributing: E.J. Schultz

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