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General Mills to acquire Blue Buffalo pet products

BY DSN STAFF

General Mills, the parent company of brands such as Cheerios, Nature Valley, Haagen-Dazs, Pillsbury, Old El Paso and more, is expanding its portfolio to include pet products. The company announced its acquisition of Blue Buffalo for $40.00 per share in cash, representing a value of approximately $8 billion.

The transaction will allow General Mills to become a leader in the U.S. Wholesome Natural pet food category, which is the fastest-growing portion of the overall pet food market, the Minneapolis-based company said.

“The addition of Blue to our family of well-loved brands provides General Mills with the leading position in the large and growing wholesome natural pet food category and represents a significant milestone as we reshape our portfolio to drive additional growth and value creation for our shareholders,” General Mills chairman and chief executive officer, Jeff Harmening, said.

Founded in 2002, Wilton, Conn.-based Blue Buffalo specializes in the making of natural foods and treats for dogs and cats under the Blue Brand, which includes Blue Life Protection Formula, Blue Wilderness, Blue Basics, Blue Freedom and Blue Veterinary Diet. The company has generated $1.275 billion in net sales and $319 million in adjusted EBITDA for the fiscal year 2017.

“I have been impressed by General Mills’ strong track record of accelerating growth for its natural and organic brands while giving them the freedom to maintain their own unique culture and identity. General Mills will be a tremendous home for our Blue brand, as our talented team of over 1,700 ‘Buffs’ joins this new extended family,” Billy Bishop, Blue Buffalo chief executive officer, said. “From the first meeting Jeff and I had, I felt a strong cultural fit between our two companies and believe they will be a great partner in our mission to reach more pet parents and feed more pets. This transaction creates significant, immediate value for our shareholders, as it recognizes the strength of our competitively advantaged business model. Along with our leadership team, we look forward to working with General Mills to continue growing the Blue brand for many years to come.”

The transaction has been approved by both companies’ board of directors and is expected to close by the end of General Mills’ fiscal 2018.

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Angry Orchard joins the rosé trend

BY Gisselle Gaitan

Angry Orchard, best known for its apple-flavored ciders is joining the widely popular Rosé craze by launching a new drink — Angry Orchard Rosé hard cider. This new beverage from the Walden, N.Y.-based company is made with red flesh apples from France and combines the qualities of cider with a rosy color and floral aroma.

The inspiration for this new drink came from the light and fruit-forward elements of Rosé, which is derived from harvested and fermented fruit, the company said. The brand began experimenting with small batches until finding a unique red fresh apple in Brittany, France that contributes to the products apple flavor and rose-colored hue.

“I love Rosé wine, but I’m excited for drinkers to move on over to cider and try something new this spring with our Angry Orchard Rosé,” Ryan Burk, head cider maker of Angry Orchard, said. “The rare red flesh apples used in our Rosé not only impart complex flavors but contribute to the cider’s beautiful rosy hue. It’s crisp, refreshing and unlike any other style we have crafted.”

Angry Orchard Rosé hard cider contains 5.5% ABV and is available nationwide in packs of six for the suggested retail price of $7.99 to $9.99, and in a variety pack of 12 that includes other beverages from the brand, for $14.99 to $16.99. The line also will be official hard cider of this year’s Kentucky Derby.

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Supermarket Wellness Watch: Coborn’s takes ‘Independent’ approach to community health

BY David Orgel

Independent supermarkets are among the toughest competitors in all of retail. They have survived decades of big-chain and low-price competition by leveraging a unique understanding of their local communities and developing intimate relationships with customers.

However, independents realize they need to continue innovating and performing as the competition intensifies. A case in point is Coborn’s, an independent retailer based in St. Cloud, Minn., which operates 54 grocery stores and 70 convenience, liquor and other retail outlets across the Midwest. Coborn’s is leveraging an innovative health and wellness strategy as a supermarket differentiator. Its approach takes in pharmacy, clinics, better-for-you foods, and lots more in between.

“Health and wellness is a core value of ours,” said Dennis Host, vice president of Marketing, in an interview at the recent NGA Show in Las Vegas, which is focused on independent food retailers and produced by National Grocers Association. “Today consumers are turning more than ever to their supermarkets to help them in their wellness journeys. A lot of people don’t think about supermarkets as an obvious place to go for this. But we’ve got pharmacies, registered dietitians, attribute programs on nutrition labels, and partnerships with healthcare systems, and all these things align.”

Coborn’s is a proponent of developing community partnerships, and one of its most important is with local health system CentraCare Health. This organization has been putting satellite walk-in clinics in a number of Coborn’s locations. These not only meet customers where they are, but also meld seamlessly with Coborn’s own wellness offerings.

“It means we have healthcare services in a grocery store paired up with a pharmacy within feet of that, and then the ability to bring in a registered dietitian if needed,” he said.

This same partnership plays an important role in a new Coborn’s Dietitian’s Choice program now being rolled out to stores. The initiative helps to identify healthier options for shoppers. The retailer’s registered dietitians analyzed some 50,000 products across its outlets to identify 5,000 that carry the Dietitian’s Choice a better-for-you endorsement with accompanying icons on shelf tags. The program has been endorsed by partner CentraCare Health.

The items chosen, according the Coborn’s website, “are lower in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars, include plant sterols, and are good sources of lean protein, heart-healthy fats, whole grains, and fiber.” The Dietitian’s Choice effort is further boosted by an element called Food Facts that leverages algorithms to link products to specific attributes, Host said.

Coborn’s dietitians, meanwhile, lead a number of health and wellness events in local communities, as described online. These include lunch and learns, nutrition seminars, health fairs, culinary classes, and a radio talk show. They are in addition to grocery tours, personal shopping assistance, and personal consultations.

Coborn’s considers wellness such an important topic that it recently hosted a student competition at NGA Show to see which university student group could develop the most on-target health and wellness strategies for the company. It was a learning platform for students and an idea generator for Coborn’s.

Food marketing students from roughly 13 universities competed in the Student Case Study Competition over three days in front of panels of judges, ending in the faceoff between the winning school, Saint Joseph’s University, and the runner-up, Western Michigan University. Some of the strategies suggested ranged from mobile prescription refills to raising awareness of Coborn’s dietitian services. Strategies were positioned as efforts to address the needs of both Boomer and millennial customers.

Host said he was impressed with the student perspectives, and said they shed light on possible opportunities. He pointed in particular to how students identified the potential for serving both younger and older shoppers.

“Younger people see the world through a different lens,” he said. “They are far more conscientious about what they are putting in their bodies compared to any other generation before. And Boomers are realizing they need to eat healthier and make lifestyle changes to extend the runway for themselves.”

Coborn’s realizes it needs to continue pulling in innovative insights from multiple sources and executing well on its strategies. That’s the prerequisite for continuing to outperform against a growing range of competitors and remaining an integral part of local communities.

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