Kraft Heinz to sell powdered cheese business to Kerry Group for $107.5M

orange cheese powder with melting butter in a white bowl

bgwalker via Getty Images

Dive Brief:

  • Kraft Heinz reached an agreement to sell its business-to-business powdered cheese manufacturing business to Kerry Group for $107.5 million. The deal is expected to close later this year.
  • The acquisition also includes Kraft Heinz’s powdered cheese manufacturing facility in Albany, Minnesota. The 62 workers at the Kraft Heinz plant are being transferred to Kerry. 
  • This deal crystallizes the M&A strategies of the two food giants. Kraft Heinz has been working to tailor its portfolio and concentrate on core businesses, while Kerry Group has had its eye on expanding its ingredients offerings.

Dive Insight:

When people think of Kraft Heinz, they think of its stable of well-known consumer brands. The company’s ingredients business — which manufactures cheese powders and related ingredients, marshmallows and caramel, and its condiments and sauces for bulk use — is an important way to make Kraft Heinz’s signature products more widely available. But its operations are in the shadows of Heinz Ketchup, Kraft Mac & Cheese and Lunchables.

The lack of consumer recognition might be the primary reason that Kraft Heinz was looking to sell its powdered cheese business in the first place. Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio has been working to pare down the company’s offerings to focus on brands that have growth potential. The company sold its natural cheese business to Lactalis for $3.2 billion as the center of a massive deal that required the French dairy giant to divest some of its brands. Last year, Kraft Heinz also sold the Planters snack brand to Hormel for $3.35 billion.

Kerry Group, on the other hand, has been working on growth through acquisitions. In 2020, Kerry CEO Edmond Scanlon announced a new goal: The company’s ingredients would reach more than 2 billion people around the globe each day by 2030. Hitting that goal would roughly double Kerry’s business in a decade, and the company has used M&A to work toward getting there. Since the beginning of 2021, Kerry has acquired ayurvedic botanic ingredient maker Natreon, biotech companies C-LEcta and Enmex, functional ingredients company Biosearch Life and clean label preservatives maker Niacet.

The cheese powder ingredient acquisition adds an offering to Kerry that can be much more front and center in products. While all sorts of products include functional ingredients and clean label preservatives, cheese flavoring is an aspect that even consumers who don’t pay attention to ingredients or nutritional information look for. And cheese is definitely a familiar product for Kerry, which started half a century ago as an Irish dairy protein business. The company already has a cheese and dairy powder business, so adding Kraft Heinz’s offerings to the mix would help strengthen Kerry’s offerings — as long as the deal is cleared by regulators.

Kerry also has been bullish on the potential of cheese powders. In a survey of 8,790 global consumers that Kerry published the day before the Kraft Heinz deal was announced, 62% of respondents said cheese flavors make savory snacks more exciting. The company said launches of cheese-flavored snacks outpaced those in the general savory snacking category.

This research makes it clear: Once Kerry actually owns this wider cheese portfolio, it is ready to sell it to manufacturers around the world.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more details of the acquisition.


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