Food giant General Mills ( GIS) said Wednesday it is buying Epic Provisions, an Austin, Texas-based maker of meat bars.
The Deal reported in December that Epic was seeking a sale, aided by investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co. While terms of the transaction were not disclosed, a source previously told The Deal the purchase price would likely be about $100 million.
The valuation was said to be five times the approximately $20 million in revenue Epic was estimated to have generated in 2015. General Mills said Epic will become part of its Berkeley, Calif.-based Annie's division, which is headed by John Foraker, that unit's president.
The meat snacks company was founded in 2013 by Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest. Both of the founders will stay involved with the business.
Collins and Forrest both had tried myriad diets, but concluded lean meats were among the best food options for a physically active lifestyle and set out to create snacks that incorporated them. Epic's meat products are made from vegetarian-fed, humanely treated, antibiotic- and hormone-free animals. Chicken, bison, beef, pork and turkey are used in their products.
The company's product line includes not only meat bars, with flavors such as bison bacon cranberry, but also meat bites, meat bits and hunt-and-harvest mix.
General Mills, along with a number of the other food giants, has been stocking up on makers of natural and organic food due to the decline in the volume of more highly processed foods that include ingredients not considered natural.
TheStreet's Jim Cramer has long approved of the move by established food companies such as General Mills into more natural and organic products. He recently called General Mills a stock you hold for the long term and noted the company bought back stock last year -- about 30 million shares out of 593 million outstanding -- while getting rid of underperforming brands.
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General Mills is not alone. The appetite for deals in the meat snacking industry in particular has been ravenous.
About a year ago, in late January, Hershey, Pa.-based confectionery giant Hershey ( HSY) acquired Sonoma, Calif.-based Krave Pure Foods Inc., the maker of Krave jerky products, for roughly nine times its revenue of $35 million, or more than $300 million. Hershey did the deal to grow its share of convenience store shelves.
Meanwhile, Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods ( HRL) , which is known for brands such as Spam and Skippy, bought Bridgewater, N.J.-based natural and organic meat company Applegate Farms for $775 million in late May.
For Hormel, a maker of heavily processed foods, the deal was meant to transform the company while still falling within its broader agenda of focusing on higher-growth protein products.
Meanwhile, San Francisco-based private equity firm Encore Consumer Capital has invested in Boulder, Colo.-based Thanasi Foods, parent of Duke's Jerky. Founded by Justin "Duke" Havlick, Thanasi Foods is one of the top 10 food companies that industry sources identified for The Deal as being likely M&A targets.
VMG Partners, a PE firm based in San Francisco and Los Angeles that invests in natural and organic food companies, took a stake in Hinesburg, Vt.-based VSC Holdings Inc. VSC makes various smoked and cured meats under the Vermont Smoke and Cure brand.
Lastly, Salisbury, Md.-based poultry producer Perdue Farms Inc. bought Natural Food Holdings Inc. from White Plains, N.Y., PE firm LNK Partners LLC in early September. Natural Food Holdings is parent to the Niman Ranch brand of all-natural meat products.