Canada's Maple Leaf Foods to Acquire U.S.-Based Lightlife

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Feb 23, 2017

Maple Leaf Foods, Mississauga, Ont., has agreed to acquire plant-based protein brand Lightlife Foods, Inc. from Brynwood Partners VI L.P., for $140 million and related costs. Lightlife specializes in vegetarian sausages and burgers. The transaction is expected to close in March, subject to customary U.S. regulatory review.

With approximately $40 million in sales in 2016, Lightlife, Braintree, Mass., has a 38-percent market share in the U.S. refrigerated plant-based protein foods category and manufactures more than 30 products, including plant-based tempeh, hot dogs, breakfast foods and burgers. Maple Leaf said Lightlife's management will continue to lead the business, which will operate as a subsidiary of Maple Leaf.

The deal strengthens Maple Leaf Foods' position in the $600 million U.S. plant-based protein market, and underscores consumers' shift toward less processed foods and simpler ingredients. Maple Leaf produces packaged meats under such brands as Maple Leaf, Maple Leaf Prime, Maple Leaf Natural Selections, Schneiders, Schneiders Country Naturals, Mina and Devour.

“Expanding into the fast growing plant-based proteins market is one of Maple Leaf’s strategic growth platforms and supports our commitment to become a leader in sustainability,” stated Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. “Consumers are increasingly looking to diversify their protein consumption, including plant-based options.

The acquisition of Lightlife provides Maple Leaf with a leading market position and brand in the United States in a category that is outpacing growth in the broader packaged foods sector. We will expand our presence through investment in brand building, innovation and leveraging our respective capabilities.”

Companies are increasingly investing in better-for-you food offerings as more traditional foods are struggling with sales growth. Lightlife reportedly has grown by about 25 percent since its purchase by Brynwood from ConAgra Brands Inc. in 2013. Maple Leaf's move is indicative of the surge in the global plant-based meat market. The sector is projected to reach nearly $6 billion in sales by 2022, rising an average of 6.6 percent per year since 2016, according to research firm Markets and Markets.

"We at Lightlife are truly excited about today’s announcement which will allow us to accelerate our growth and broaden our reach in the fast growing plant-based protein market. Maple Leaf Foods has an industry leading commitment to sustainable protein, including a strategic focus on plant proteins, and being part of this incredible organization will enable the continued growth of our brands,” said Roy Lubetkin, president/CEO of Lightlife Foods.

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