On Wednesday, the maker of SkinnyPop popcorn and Paqui tortilla chips raised about $270 million by offering 15 million shares at $18.00 yet the Amplify Brands fell 8.2% to close $16.53, valuing the company at about $1.24 billion.
As excitement morphed into confusion and disappointment, CEO Thomas Ennis was left grasping for answers.
"I honestly don't know," Ennis said in an interview. "In the two weeks we were on the road, we had tremendous response and a lot of people excited about it. I will tell you a lot of our long-term investors are still in, and we are really excited about the quality of the investors we received in the offering."
According to Ennis, the investor base understands the company is just starting down its journey to build a portfolio of snack brands with a health and wellness angle.
Ennis was quick to point out that Amplify Brands priced above its previously estimated range. Doing so showed just how much investors are seeking to hitch their ride to the next big "healthy" food manufacturer that takes aim at an old guard consisting of PepsiCo (PEP - Get Report), General Mills (GIS - Get Report) and Campbell's Soup (CPB - Get Report). The enthusiasm over the Amplify Brands IPO, at least during the roadshow, was in light of surging stock prices for organic food makers WhiteWave Foods (WWAV) and Hain Celestial (HAIN - Get Report), and a pretty penny paid by General Mills to acquire organic food purveyor Annie's in 2014.
Amplify Brands is banking that it could ring up tasty profits for its new investors due to the country's move to eating foods with perceived health benefits.
"We believe a variety of favorable consumer trends, including a greater focus on health and wellness, increased consumption of smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day and a strong preference for convenient better for you products, will continue to drive both strong overall snacking growth, as well as the continued outperformance of better for you products within the overall market," notes Amplify Brands in its prospectus.
The company's products boast claims of being free of controversial genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and consisting of simple whole ingredients.
According to the company, the overall U.S. popcorn sub-segment, which includes microwave popcorn and ready to eat popcorn, was estimated at $1.9 billion in 2014, and grew 8.1% over the prior year. The $966 million ready to eat popcorn sub-segment is the fastest growing sub-segment within U.S. salty snacks says Amplify Brands, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 14.6% since 2010.
So far, the health of the U.S. popcorn market has driven mixed financial performance for the company, reflecting the competitive conditions in the snack foods business. Those conditions include frequent discounting on household name brands like Lay's potatoes chips, and the arrival of new competitors in the better for your snacking category. Amplify Brand's sales surged 72.3% in the first quarter of 2015, but operating profits were unchanged year over year. Gross profit margins in the quarter fell to 55% from 55.6% a year ago on greater promotional activity at major retailers. In 2014, sales rose 22.6%, but operating margins only rose 40 basis points to 44.7%.
The stock's decline on its first day of trading likely reflects investors not being sold yet on the company's prospects. TheStreet takes a look at the three areas of concern beyond the mixed financial performance that investors may be zeroing in on.
1. Investors are already betting on Amplify Brands successfully developing a healthy snacks portfolio.
To justify the company's over $1 billion valuation, Amplify Brands will likely have to acquire upstart better for you snack brands at premium prices over the next twelve months. In turn, those new, somewhat unproven brands will have to support additional sales and earnings growth for the company beyond SkinnyPop and Paqui. Longer term, the company will have to show investors it's not only a snack food company, possibly by expanding into healthy juice drinks.
Ennis says the company needs to very stay focused as it expands into new products. "We really like better for you salty snacks, and feel we will get rewarded for that and can create some synergies -- anything we acquire we want to think it could reach $100 million in sales or more," said Ennis.
The company has made small inroads in its bid to build a healthy snack portfolio. In April 2015, Amplify Brands acquired Paqui, an emerging better for you tortilla chip brand that has many of the same key taste and ingredient attributes as SkinnyPop. But, the company does not currently offer products in the potato chip, cheese snack or pretzel sub-segments. According to the prospectus, those segments may be areas the company enters via an acquisition or a product of its own.
As for the popular SkinnyPop brand being used on new products, Ennis says it's just a popcorn brand, one that could be expanded to something like a popcorn bar.
2. The company needs more distribution points to drive stronger sales and profits.
At December 31, 2014, the company's total number of distribution points stood at approximately 136. For the top 25 leading salty snack brands, Amplify Brands estimates the average is 919. SkinnyPop's household penetration, which represents the percentage of households that have purchased SkinnyPop over the prior 52 weeks, stood at 5.2% compared to an average of approximately 22.7% for the top 25 salty snack brands by dollar retail sales, per data from research firm IRI.
3. How long will Amplify's Founders stay in the mix?
SkinnyPop was created in 2010 by Pam Netzky, Andy Friedman and investors Jeffrey and Michael Eiserman. Friedman and Netzkey continue to sit on Amplify's board. The company has employment agreements with each of the founders. In 2016, Amplify expects to pay the founders approximately $25.3 million, of which $11.5 million was accrued as of March 31, 2015.
But, the founders' employment agreements each expire on December 31, 2015. It will be important for Amplify to extend the employment agreements of its founders -- their creativity and status in the snack foods industry will be helpful in seeking out new acquisitions, securing those acquisitions (likely from founders), and developing product line extensions to SkinnyPop and Paqui.