Falfurrias Now Popcorn Seasoning King

Sauer Brands, a portfolio company of Falfurrias Capital Partners, has acquired Chicago Custom Foods from Highlander Partners. Highlander acquired the company in January 2018 from VMG Partners.

Chicago Custom Foods (CCF) is a maker of branded popcorn seasonings, a category it created in 2000 with the introduction of Kernel Season’s which, according to the company, is America’s number one selling brand with more than 20 popcorn flavors ranging from simple butter and white cheddar to garlic parmesan and cheesy caramel corn.

CCF’s products are sold through more than 22,000 retailers in North America and internationally. The company’s popcorn seasonings are also available in movie theaters that operate more than 32,000 screens in more than 30 countries. CCF, led by CEO Jason Roy, was founded in 2000 and is headquartered near Chicago in Elk Grove Village.

“We are excited about the new opportunities with Sauer Brands, and also very appreciative of the support that Highlander provided during our tenure,” said Mr. Roy. “We are ready for the future and the team is energized by the possibilities and new opportunities. Our Kernel Season’s brand has exceptional consumer awareness and we are equally excited about our new brands and product offerings, too.”

Sauer Brands was formed by Falfurrias in June 2019 to acquire the food business assets of The C.F. Sauer Company. Sauer manufactures a line of condiments, spices, seasonings, and extracts, including well-known brands such as Duke’s Mayonnaise, The Spice Hunter, Sauer’s, Gold Medal, and BAMA. The company’s regional brands and private-label products are sold through the retail and foodservice channels.

Sauer, founded in 1887 by Conrad Frederick Sauer, has more than 850 employees and manufacturing facilities in Richmond, Virginia (headquarters); Mauldin, South Carolina; New Century, Kansas; and San Luis Obispo, California.

During Highlander’s ownership, CCF expanded its product line with the introduction of Tasty Shakes oatmeal mix-ins, Veggie Season’s vegetable seasonings, and Truffle Season’s truffle-flavored popcorn seasonings which is set for release later this year.

“This sale marks the culmination of a very deliberate strategy of broadening the product line through additional flavors to existing products and introducing new seasoning offerings for use with other product categories,” said Jeff Hull, president and CEO of Highlander. “The management team, led by CEO Jason Roy, has driven tremendous growth through innovation, new customer penetration and increased consumer awareness.”

Highlander makes investments in middle-market businesses in targeted industries in which the principals of the firm have significant operating and investing experience. Sectors of interest include manufacturing, consumer products, industrial goods, automotive accessories, packaging, food and beverage, and specialty chemicals. The firm has over $2 billion in assets under management and is based in Dallas.

Falfurrias makes equity investments in growth-oriented middle-market companies that have revenues in excess of $10 million and EBITDAs in excess of $2 million. In February 2019, Falfurrias closed its latest fund, Falfurrias Capital Partners IV LP, at its hard cap of $500 million. The firm’s earlier fund closed with $275 million of capital in March 2017. Falfurrias was founded in 2006 by Hugh McColl Jr., former chairman and CEO of Bank of America, and Marc Oken, former CFO of Bank of America, and is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

BlackArch Partners was the financial advisor to CCF on this transaction.

Private Equity Professional | May 7, 2020

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