In a move that may shake up the low-calorie sweetener market, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to sell its top-selling Splenda brand to Heartland Food Products Group.
Heartland already makes sucralose, the sweetening agent in Splenda, as well as stevia, saccharin, aspartame, and other sweeteners. The acquisition will allow the company to use the Splenda name on its packaging of sucralose.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed but Heartland said private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners assisted in sealing the deal and would become a shareholder in Heartland after it is completed.
“Splenda fits well within our strategy to offer the very best-tasting products to sweeten foods and beverages without adding calories,” Heartland CEO Ted Gelov said in a news release. “Splenda is the most iconic low-calorie sweetener brand in the world.”
Since J&J introduced it in 1999, Splenda has reached $300 million in annual sales, overtaking sweeteners containing saccharin and aspartame. But the brand has been facing fierce competition from cheaper generic rivals marketed by Chinese companies like Niutang Chemical Plant and JK Sucralose.
The broader sweetener industry, Bloomberg reports, has also “suffered a backlash from food activists, who are urging consumers to abandon artificial ingredients.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest changed its rating of sucralose from “safe” to “caution” in recent years.
J&J said it was selling Splenda as part of its strategy of focusing on key consumer areas such as baby care, pain care, and oral care.
Photo: Mike Mozart, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0