Wind Point Partners has sold Evans Food Group, a producer of branded and private label pork rinds and pork rind pellets, to Benestar Brands, a new food platform formed by Highlander Partners.
Pork rinds are the skin (rind) of a pig and when fried or roasted are sold as a snack food. According to Wind Point, pork rinds are the fastest growing product in the salty snacks market. The product is higher in protein than other crunchy snack foods and are a good “high-protein, low-carbohydrate” alternative. They are also a favorite snack food of the growing Hispanic demographic.
Evans’ pork rind products – sold under the brands Mac’s, Turkey Creek, Don Rudy, Cazo de Oro and Domingo’s – are sold in the US, Canada and more than ten countries across Latin America. The company was founded in 1932 and is headquartered in Chicago with six production facilities in Chicago, IL; Arlington, TX; Portsmouth, OH; City of Industry, CA; Thomaston, GA; and Saltillo, Mexico (www.evansfood.com).
Wind Point acquired Evans in April of 2016 in partnership with the company’s management and José Luis Prado (the former president of Quaker Oats North America), who joined Evans as its chief executive officer. Wind Point worked with Mr. Prado to build a strong board of directors that included Rick Lenny, former CEO of The Hershey Company and a current Wind Point executive advisor; Rich Scalise, current CEO of Hearthside Foods (a former Wind Point portfolio company that was sold in March 2014), and Alejandro Silva, former CEO of Evans.
“Evans is a great example of the Wind Point strategy at work,” said Joe Lawler, a principal at Wind Point. “When we acquired Evans in 2016, it was a solid middle-market company with a good reputation and identifiable value creation opportunities, but the business lacked momentum. We saw an opportunity to drive considerable value by adding world-class talent to the organization to drive various growth and optimization initiatives. The value creation plan we developed in close partnership with José Luis was executed in a short period of time and enabled this very strong outcome.”
During Wind Point’s ownership term of just over three years, Evans’ revenue more than doubled and margins increased through a combination of organic growth, two add-on acquisitions and various operational initiatives. The two add-on acquisitions were Gaytan Foods, a City of Industry, CA-based maker of pork rind products, in October 2017; and Turkey Creek Snacks, a Thomaston, GA-based producer of branded pork rinds, in March 2019.
“I want to thank Wind Point, our board of directors and my team for their partnership and dedication over the past three years,” said Mr. Prado. “Together we have transformed Evans into a powerful salty snack platform that is well-positioned to continue delighting our customers, employees and all stakeholders. We are excited about our future and look forward to continuing our progress in partnership with Highlander Partners.”
With the closing of this transaction, Mr. Prado has joined Wind Point’s network of executive advisor partners and he will continue to work with the firm to identify and evaluate investment opportunities in the food industry. In addition, Mr. Prado will serve as vice chairman of Evans under Highlander ownership.
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 (www.highlander-partners.com).
“Highlander has experienced rapid growth over the past five years, with assets under management growing to over $2 billion. Our strategy has been focused on developing verticals that enhance our financial performance and provide appropriate risk-adjusted returns. Food and beverage has been a focus and specifically the better-for-you, salty snack category,” said Jeff Hull, president and CEO of Highlander. “We have developed a team to focus in this area and to identify outstanding opportunities to grow our presence in the food sector. We intend to make additional acquisitions around this strategy, both for Benestar and in other sectors of the food industry.”
Highlander has been working closely with Carl Lee, Jr., who previously served as president and CEO of Snyder’s-Lance, the second largest salty snack maker in the United States, before it was sold to Campbell Soup for over $6 billion in 2018. Mr. Lee is now the president and CEO of Benestar and will lead the company and the Evans operations.
“I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to partner with Highlander and the Evans team. This business reminds me of Snyder’s when I joined as CEO; a leading manufacturer and distributor in a fast-growing category focused on a shift toward better-for-you snacks,” said Mr. Lee. “There is tremendous potential within Evans, and I look forward to implementing some of the strategies we used in the past to bring Evans’ products and other snacks to more consumers across the US.”
“The buy of Evans affirms Highlander’s focus on investing in high-quality, branded consumer product companies, including food. We have been diligent in targeting attractive brands with our consumer and food team and it is not every day that an asset like this is available. We are thrilled to acquire Evans and to assist in its growth trajectory,” added Mr. Hull. “I am also excited about the potential of Benestar executing a ‘buy and build’ strategy in the snack food industry, as we target companies with strong growth potential and excellent brand equity. Benestar’s principals have executed dozens of transactions in the food and snack category and will be using their expertise to acquire both standalone businesses and carveouts.”
Wind Point, the seller of Evans, invests from $50 million to $100 million in companies with EBITDAs of at least $10 million. Industries of interest include business services, consumer products and industrial products. In June 2017, Wind Point held a final closing of its eighth fund, Wind Point Partners VIII LP, with $985 million of capital commitments. The fund exceeded its initial hard cap of $750 million and is the largest fund closing in Wind Point’s history. The firm was founded in 1984 and is based in Chicago (www.wppartners.com).
Senior financing for this transaction was provided by Antares and Norwest Mezzanine Partners provided mezzanine debt and equity.
William Blair was the financial advisor to Evans on this transaction.
© 2019 Private Equity Professional | August 5, 2019