Jack Aronson, co-founder of Garden Fresh Gourmet, “personally tastes each crop of tomatoes” for the company’s salsas. Photo via fb.com
Campbell Soup Company is growing its Campbell Fresh division with the purchase of a Michigan-based food maker with a Grand Rapids presence.
Camden, N.J.-based Campbell said this week that it has signed an agreement with Ferndale-based Garden Fresh Gourmet to purchase the company for $231 million.
Garden Fresh business
Campbell said Garden Fresh Gourmet has been named the number-one refrigerated salsa brand in the U.S. The company also makes hummus, dips and tortilla chips.
Garden Fresh Gourmet generated $100 million in net sales for the year ended Dec. 31, 2014.
The company has about 500 employees, with additional Michigan operations in Inkster and Detroit.
Garden Fresh Gourmet’s Grand Rapids facility, which produces tortilla chips, will remain in operation.
Thomas Hushen, a spokesperson for Campbell Soup, said employment offers have already been extended to 60 employees located in Grand Rapids, and he said current Garden Fresh employees “will see a significant upgrade in many employee benefits, particularly health insurance coverage options.”
Garden Fresh Gourmet will continue to operate out of Ferndale and will be led by Todd Putman, general manager of Garden Fresh, within the Campbell Fresh division.
Garden Fresh Gourmet was founded in 1998 when Jack and Annette Aronson made their first batch of salsa in a five-gallon bucket in the back of their restaurant and eventually started to package it for stores at the request of a local upscale grocer.
Jack Aronson will stay on as an advisor to the business.
He said he believes Campbell Soup is “the right company to take Garden Fresh Gourmet to the next level and introduce our great products to more customers and more consumers.”
Garden Fresh Gourmet joins Campbell’s growing Fresh division, which is focused on taking advantage of the growing packaged fresh foods market.
Packaged fresh foods represent a more than $19-billion category, which grew 4.9 percent in the past year, above the industry average, according to Campbell.
With the addition of Garden Fresh Gourmet, the Campbell Fresh division will account for more than $1 billion in annual net sales.
Over the past several years, Campbell has added a “trio of growth engines” to its business by acquiring Bolthouse Farms, organic baby-food company Plum and biscuit company Kelsen.
Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup’s president and CEO, said the Garden Fresh acquisition marks another “milestone in re-shaping our portfolio toward faster-growing categories, including packaged fresh and organic foods.”
The Fresh division will focus on “building the company’s scale and accelerating growth in rapidly expanding packaged fresh categories across the retail perimeter.”
“Garden Fresh Gourmet will allow the Campbell Fresh division to expand in the deli section of the grocery store perimeter and will complement our strong presence in the produce section,” said Jeff Dunn, president, Campbell Fresh.
He said Campbell will leverage its packaged fresh production, distribution, sales and brand-building capabilities to help Garden Fresh Gourmet “become a national brand.”