Highlander Partners Announces the Formation of Benestar Brands with the Acquisition of Evans Food Group from Wind Point Partners
August 5, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Highlander Partners, L.P., a leading middle market private investment firm based in Dallas, Texas, through its newly-formed food platform, Benestar Brands (“Benestar”), announced the acquisition of Evans Food Group (“Evans”) from Wind Point Partners. Evans is the world’s leading producer of pork rinds, with five manufacturing operations in the U.S. and one in Saltillo, Mexico.
Headquartered in Chicago, Evans is an international producer of branded, co-packed and private label pork rinds. Its diverse branded portfolio includes Mac’s, its largest branded offering and the #1 multi-outlet store brand for pork rinds in the US, alongside its other brands: Turkey Creek, Don Rudy, Cazo de Oro and Domingo’s. Pork rinds are one of the fastest growing snack items, bolstered by the emerging interest of consumers to add these products to their diets as a nutritional option. Consumers have discovered that pork rinds or “chicharrónes” are a snack that is rich in protein, gluten-free and contains no carbohydrates, which appeals to a variety of consumers, particularly millennials. Evans’ growth is also enhanced by strong demographic trends and the Company’s continuous innovation of its offerings, flavors and packaging.
Benestar, a Catalan word that translates as wellness or well-being, is an apt new platform name to represent a product like chicharrónes. Under Benestar, the Evans operations will continue to be uniquely positioned to capitalize on this rapidly growing and better-for-you snack category.
“Highlander has experienced rapid growth over the past five years, with assets under management growing to over $2 billion. Our strategy has been focused on developing verticals that enhance our financial performance and provide appropriate risk-adjusted returns. Food and beverage has been a focus and specifically the better-for-you, salty snack category,” stated Jeff L. Hull, President and CEO of Highlander. “We have developed a team to focus in this area and to identify outstanding opportunities to grow our presence in the food sector. We intend to make additional acquisitions around this strategy, both for Benestar and in other sectors of the food industry,” added Hull.
Highlander has been working closely with Carl E. Lee, Jr., who previously served as President and CEO of Snyder’s-Lance Inc before it was sold to Campbell Soup for over $6 billion in 2018. Mr. Lee will assume the President and CEO position at Benestar and lead the company and the Evans operations on a go-forward basis. Mr. Lee commented, “I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to partner with Highlander and the Evans team. This business reminds me of Snyder’s when I joined as CEO; a leading manufacturer and distributor in a fast growing category focused on a shift toward better-for-you snacks. There is tremendous potential within Evans, and I look forward to implementing some of the strategies we used in the past to bring Evans’ products and other snacks to more consumers across the US.”
Additionally, Jeff Partridge, a Managing Director that joined Highlander in 2017 and a seasoned food executive (having previously served as CEO of Truco Enterprises, the licensee for On the Border Tortilla Chips; CEO of Combs Produce; and as Vice President at The Coca Cola Company), commented, “This is a great transaction for our team. We have been actively seeking an investment in the snack category. Evans, along with what is sure to be excellent leadership from Carl Lee, is the perfect avenue. We are also pleased that Evans’ previous Chairman and CEO (and formerly President for Quaker Oats North America), Jose L. Prado, will join Benestar as Vice Chairman. I know our firm is the right owner for this asset and with our best-in-class team we will take Benestar to the next level through organic growth and acquisitions.” Mr. Partridge will serve as Chairman of Benestar and will work closely with Mr. Lee and Mr. Prado.
“This acquisition affirms Highlander’s focus on investing in high-quality, branded consumer product companies, including food. We have been diligent in targeting attractive brands with our consumer and food team and it is not every day that an asset like this is available. We are thrilled to acquire Evans and to assist in its growth trajectory. I am also excited about the potential of Benestar executing a ‘buy and build’ strategy in the snack food industry, as we target companies with strong growth potential and excellent brand equity. Benestar’s principals have executed dozens of transactions in the food and snack category and will be using their expertise to acquire both standalone businesses and carveouts,” reiterated Mr. Hull.
William Blair acted as exclusive financial advisor to Evans. Antares provided senior financing, and Norwest Mezzanine Partners provided mezzanine debt and equity in support of the transaction.
Evans is the leading manufacturer of pork rinds, serving US and international markets. The company is vertically-integrated and manages various brands, as well as co-packing, private label and pellet sales. Founded in 1947, the company is headquartered in Chicago. Evans currently operates six production facilities (Chicago, IL; Arlington, TX; Portsmouth, OH; City of Industry, CA; Thomaston, GA; and Saltillo, Mexico). For more information on Evans, please visit www.evansfood.com.
About Highlander Partners
Highlander Partners, L.P. is a Dallas-based private investment firm with over $2 billion of assets under management. The firm focuses on making investments in businesses in targeted industries in which the principals of the firm have significant operating and investing experience, including basic manufacturing, food, chemicals, building materials, consumer products, and others. Highlander Partners uses a “buy and build” investment approach, creating value by helping companies grow organically and through acquisitions. For more information, visit www.highlander-partners.com.