Hormel to acquire Boulder-based snackmaker Justin’s for $286M

BOULDER — Justin’s LLC, a Boulder-based company that pioneered a line of snacks rooted in nut butter, is being acquired for $286 million by food-industry giant Hormel Foods Corp., makers of Skippy peanut butter and a line of meat products, Hormel executives announced Wednesday.

Austin, Minn.-based Hormel (NYSE: HRL) will continue operating Justin’s out of its office at 736 Pearl St. in Boulder as a subsidiary in its grocery products segment, according to a Hormel statement.

Justin’s markets four nut-butter-based snack lines, including spreads, squeeze packs, peanut butter cups and snack packs.

“I look forward to working with the Hormel Foods team, a company that shares our passion for innovation, quality and creating the best possible consumer experience,” said Justin Gold, who founded Justin’s in 2004 by making nut butters in a food processor in his home kitchen and selling them at the Boulder Farmers Market. “My goal has always been to build something truly special, and Hormel Foods is the right partner to make this an enduring and far-reaching brand.”

By 2010, with the help of some capital campaigns and a loan from Whole Foods, Justin’s had begun to market some of its snack foods nationally. In October 2013, two months after Justin’s had voluntarily recalled some of its products because of metallic fragments found in some of its unpackaged nut butter, Gold sold a minority stake in his company to San Francisco-based private equity company VMG Partners for $47 million.

During a conference call to discuss the transaction Wednesday morning, Hormel executives said they expect Justin’s to have net sales of $100 million in fiscal 2017, and keep growing.

The Justin’s brand gives us a great platform in natural and organic special peanut butter spreads, the fastest growing portion of the nut butter category,” said James P. Snee, president and chief operating officer of Hormel, during the call. “Justin’s also further balances our portfolio of brands toward younger, more health-conscious and on-the-go consumers with pioneering squeeze packs, an affordable snack that comes in all seven of Justin’s nut-butter flavors.”

Primarily known for its brand of meat products, Hormel bought Skippy for $700 million in 2013 and Muscle Milk in 2014.