Campbell Soup has agreed to sell its Bolthouse Farms business to private-equity firm Butterfly Equity for $510 million, completing its unwinding of a bet on fresh foods that didn’t pay off.
Campbell had acquired Bolthouse, known for fruit juices and packaged carrots, in 2012 for about $1.55 billion. The company has been divesting businesses as part of a plan to narrow its focus and reduce debt.
Butterfly operating partner Jeff Dunn was Bolthouse’s chief executive from 2008 through 2012 and remained with Campbell for four years after it bought the firm.
“The sale of Bolthouse Farms supports our strategy to focus on our two core businesses, Campbell Snacks and Campbell Meals and Beverages, where we have iconic brands and strong market positions,” Campbell CEO Mark Clouse said in a news release.
In fiscal 2018, Campbell Fresh posted net sales of $970 million.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Bolthouse was “the cornerstone of then-chief executive Denise Morrison’s bid to steer [Campbell] into a future of fresher foods, which were supposed to offer faster growth than Campbell’s soups and other products sold in the ever-shrinking center aisles of supermarkets.”
“But Bolthouse faltered under Campbell stewardship, which included a decision in 2016 to harvest smaller-than-normal carrots, causing dissatisfied customers to bolt for other suppliers,” the Inquirer noted.
Campbell announced in April 2018 that it would create a new “accelerator unit” to turn around its money-losing packaged fresh foods business. But under pressure from activist investors to boost profitability and stock performance, it put the unit up for sale in August along with its international business.
In February, the company agreed to sell salsa maker Garden Fresh Gourmet to a unit of Fountain of Health USA.
According to Campbell, proceeds from the sales will allow it to trim $570 million from its $9.46 billion in debt, most of which came from the acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance for $6 billion.
“Bolthouse Farms holds a special place in the produce industry, and my team and I are deeply committed to strengthening and broadening Bolthouse Farms’ unique legacy,” Dunn said.