Post Holdings is getting into the pet foods business with the acquisition of several brands from J.M. Smucker as General Mills appears to be preparing to challenge Freshpet in the refrigerated pet food space.
In a $1.2 billion deal announced yesterday, Post said it will acquire cat and dog food brands Rachael Ray Nutrish, Nature’s Recipe, 9Lives, Kibbles ‘n Bits and Gravy Train—which will populate a new platform within its Post Consumer Brands division.
The brands involved generate approximately $1.4 billion in annual revenue, according to Post.
“We have long considered pet [foods] a natural extension for our buy-and-build strategy,” post president and CEO Rob Vitale said on a call with financial analysts.
While Vitale described the brands involved as “tried and true” in food, drug and mass-merchandise channels, “they are not particularly strong in specialty and other channels.”
Asked whether Post will seek to expand the brands’ distribution, Vitale said the initial focus will be on “fully developing the opportunities where we are strong.”
Should the company decide to pursue specialty and other retail channels, “it likely would be through further acquisitions.”
The deal with Smucker includes three manufacturing sites and a distribution center.
Last week, investment banking firm Stifel noted that General Mills probably will roll out new pet food products under the Blue Buffalo brand because of its recent trademark filing for “Fresh Fridge-to-Bowl Dog Food.”
Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan viewed the “potential introduction as a modest negative for Freshpet” but opined that it could “accelerate refrigerated pet food category adoption, which our analysis indicates is a significant opportunity.”
Founded in 2006, Freshpet’s website motto is “Real pet food, fresh from the fridge.”
Astrachan wrote that he was unsure where a competing Blue Buffalo product would be placed in-store “as Freshpet controls space in its branded refrigerators” at retailers.
General Mills acquired Blue Buffalo in 2018 for $8 billion.