Sauer Brands buys top popcorn seasoning brand in U.S.
Chicago Custom Foods LLC owns Kernel Season's flavoring, sold in 30,000 stores.
Richmond-based Sauer Brands Inc. is expanding into popcorn seasoning with the acquisition of Chicago Custom Foods LLC, the company announced Tuesday. CCF makes Kernel Season’s, a brand that makes more than 20 popcorn flavors.
Sauer, which owns Duke’s Mayonnaise, The Spice Hunter and its own line of spices and seasoning, did not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Chicago Custom Foods CEO Jason Roy will report to Sauer Brands CEO Martin Kelly, and CCF, which employs about 50 people, will be operated as a separate business at its current location in Chicago’s suburbs.
In July, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Falfurrias Capital Partners purchased C.F. Sauer Co. after decades of family ownership and has maintained the headquarters and spice plant in Richmond. The Sauer family still owns Sauer Properties, a commercial real estate company with holdings in the greater Richmond area.
Beyond Kernel Season’s, the No. 1-selling popcorn seasoning brand in the U.S., CCF also makes Tasty Shakes oatmeal mix-ins and Veggie Season’s vegetable seasonings. Truffle Season’s, a line of truffle-flavored popcorn flavors, is set for release later this year. CCF’s products are sold at 30,000 stores in the United States and internationally, as well as being used by movie theaters in 30 countries.
William W. “Bill” Lovette, executive chairman of Sauer Brands, said Tuesday that CCF created the popcorn flavoring category in grocery stores, after starting their business at cinemas. Today, Lovette said, theaters make up about 10% of the company’s business, and the rest is sold via large retailers like Walmart and Target, and grocery stores, including Kroger and Publix.
He added that Sauer has thrived financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people cooking at home over the past two months and buying groceries. None of Sauer’s ingredient suppliers encountered serious delays, either.
Much of the work at the plants — including two condiment manufacturing facilities in Kansas and South Carolina, and The Spice Hunter’s plant in California — is done by machine, which allows social distancing, Lovette said, and everyone who enters a facility is required to wear a mask. In packaging areas, workers are able to spread out and use barriers to remain protected.
Also, about two weeks ago Richmond’s spice plant started producing hand sanitizer, providing it for free to first responders and Sauer workers.
Some workers in South Carolina and Kansas were furloughed because they work for plants that manufacture products for restaurants, many of which were closed for public health reasons. Several are returning to work soon, although Lovette said he didn’t know exactly how many. He added that although a few workers across the company’s operations had to be quarantined after traveling during early March, none had tested positive for the coronavirus, and overall, work continued smoothly.
“I noticed the care with which they approached the products,” Lovette said of the employees. “That’s probably what I’m most grateful for, their attitude of serving others.”