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Deals May Be Popping For Popcorn, Indiana

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Trying to take advantage of the interest in snack foods, Popcorn, Indiana, the Englewood, N.J.-based snack food company, is contemplating a sale or IPO.

In an interview Tuesday, CEO Hitesh Hajarnavis said he would consider lucrative offers to buy the company, adding that the ultimate aim of the popcorn maker's financial backers is to attain a rich valuation.

An initial public offering could also be an option, Hajarnavis said, though the company has yet to hire an investment bank to steer it through the process.

However, Popcorn, Indiana's investors are not like traditional private equity, Hajarnavis said, and are willing to wait for the right valuation to exit the business.

He said Popcorn, Indiana would approach $100 million in revenue this year, up from about $70 million in 2013, and is now at a size where the company begins to become attractive to strategic acquirers.

To achieve that revenue figure, the company notched up a 27% compound annual growth rate since 2006, Hajarnavis said.

Strategics that have been active acquirers of snack food brands include Snyder's-Lance Inc., B&G Foods Inc., and Kellogg Co. Other potential acquirers include Hain Celestial Group Inc. and General Mills Inc.

Hajarnavis is also closely watching the auction process of Chicago-based SkinnyPop Popcorn LLC.

SkinnyPop went on the auction block last year, sources previously said, with the company likely to go for three times its revenue that is now north of $50 million, another source said.

Final bids will soon be due for SkinnyPop, another person familiar with the situation said.

Whatever valuation Popcorn, Indiana competitor SkinnyPop achieves would likely be a good indicator for his company, Hajarnavis said.

Popcorn, Indiana claims it is second in popcorn snack food to PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay brand Smartfood.

Popcorn, Indiana was founded in 2002, and its products include popcorn chips, kettle corn and a healthy version of its popcorn called Fit, which competes with SkinnyPop.

The company was started in 2002 by Warren Struhl and Richard Demb. Investors have included Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks and Goldman, Sachs & Co. The company had at one point also included the Dale and Thomas Popcorn brand.

Hajarnavis declined comment on the company's current investor roster.

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