General Mills to sell Helper, Suddenly Salad for $610M

Dive Brief:

  • General Mills has agreed to sell its line of Helper meals and Suddenly Salad side dishes to Eagle Family Foods Group for approximately $610 million. General Mills said it expects the deal to close in the first quarter of 2023, while Eagle Foods said in a statement that the transaction should close in the third quarter of this year, subject to regulatory approval.
  • The combined net sales of the Helper and Suddenly Salad businesses were roughly $235 million in 2021, according to General Mills. Helper brands include the iconic Hamburger, Tuna and Chicken Helper meals in 60 flavors, while Betty Crocker Suddenly Salad pasta salad mixes are available in eight varieties.
  • The deal is part of General Mills’ “Accelerate” profit growth strategy, which the company said includes “relentlessly innovating” and “unleashing its scale” by reshaping its portfolio in key sectors. It follows the company’s acquisition of pizza crust maker TNT this month. 

Dive Insight:

The sale of Helper and Suddenly Salad comes at a time of transformation for General Mills, a company known for cereals including Cheerios and Trix, Betty Crocker baking mixes and Chex Mix snacks.

At this year’s CAGNY conference in February, General Mills laid out its “Accelerate” strategy, which includes reshaping its portfolio through investments and divestitures, with a goal of driving higher profits and returns to its shareholders. The company said at the conference that it had turned over 15% of its net sales base since 2018 through strategic changes to its portfolio.

Last fall, Bloomberg reported that General Mills was considering selling packaged meal brands including Hamburger Helper and Progresso Soup, looking to raise roughly $3 billion. Hamburger Helper was launched in 1971 as part of the Betty Crocker brand. It has had a checkered history of success more recently. General Mills relaunched the Helper line in 2014 as it was losing share of the dry dinner market. The effort did not immediately boost sales, and then-CEO Ken Powell described it as “a work in progress.” 

“This transaction improves our North America Retail segment’s growth profile and allows us to increase our focus on brands and categories where we have the best opportunities to drive profitable growth,” Jon Nudi, General Mills Group President, North America Retail, said in a statement. The company also divested its European Yoplait yogurt operations last fall.

On the acquisitions side, General Mills announced this month its purchase of pizza crust maker TNT Crust for an undisclosed sum. The CPG giant said that the purchase will help it gain market share in the away-from-home frozen baked goods category, where it sees growth potential.

Eagle Foods, best known for its sweetened condensed milk, said in its press release that the deal will enable it to further diversify its portfolio. With the acquisition of Helper and Suddenly Salad, the company will have three platforms targeting center-store categories: snacks, baking, and meals and sides.

“The Helper and Suddenly Salad brands, with strong heritage and high consumer awareness, are a perfect fit for what Eagle does best — investing in, innovating, and revitalizing brands to drive growth and nurture them to reach their full potential,” CEO Bernard Kreilmann said in a statement. “We will immediately start expanding the positioning of these two iconic brands and bring consumers tasty, convenient, and affordable meal solutions.”

The company pointed to its track record of success in fueling brand growth for its acquisitions, including revitalizing two struggling popcorn brands it acquired, Cretors in 2016 and Popcorn, Indiana in 2017. Eagle has worked to innovate by introducing new ways to roll out and market-test products. The company launched a subscription box for Cretors in 2020 that allowed consumers to try flavors before they were launched, an endeavor that allowed it to gather valuable feedback.

Eagle’s purchase of Helper and Suddenly Salad could also give them a boost. In a 2019 interview with Food Navigator, then-CEO Paul Smucker Wagstaff said the company aims to transform “orphan” or “underloved” brands into leading brands. This would follow the examples of brands like Krave, Funfetti and Häagen-Dazs, which have flourished after being divested by big CPG owners.