DECATUR, Ill. – Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland already makes sweeteners, vegetable oils and an array of other ingredients used in packaged foods and drinks. Now it’s getting in the natural flavors business.
The company, based in Decatur, Ill., said Monday it will acquire the privately held Swiss company Wild Flavors in an all-cash deal that will total $3.13 billion counting debt, or 2.3 billion euros. Founded in 1931, Wild Flavors makes natural flavors and “flavor systems” for food and beverage companies, including Capri-Sun drinks.
Natural and artificial flavors are listed as ingredients in a wide variety of packaged foods and drinks around the world. Such flavors help make Coke taste like Coke and Cheetos taste like Cheetos. But companies typically don’t disclose what exactly goes into making those flavors, which are considered trade secrets.
“Many times, they sign a two-way confidentiality agreement,” said Mark Matlock, senior vice president of food research at Archer Daniels Midland. Wild Flavors, for instance, does 27 percent of its business in North America, but Matlock declined to disclose which products the company helps make.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the term “natural flavor” can be used for oils and other extracts from spices, fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats and other foods. So for an orange flavor, that would mean the flavor was extracted from an orange, rather than created with synthetic ingredients, Matlock said.
The flavor industry generally doesn’t get much attention, even though it generates billions of dollars in sales a year. International Flavors & Fragrances, one of the biggest players in the market, for instance, pulled in nearly $3 billion in sales last year. Other major players include Givaudan, Firmenich and Symrise.
Archer Daniels Midland Co. said its acquisition of Wild Flavors will let it enter one of the “largest and fastest growing consumer trends in both developed and emerging markets.” Matlock noted that demand for natural flavors has been growing at a faster rate than demand for artificial flavors. ADM also processes corn, soybeans and other crops to make everything from animal feed to ethanol.
Ann Duignan, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, noted that the deal is intended to provide geographic diversification and lower earnings volatility for Archer Daniels Midland.
Duignan noted that ADM’s “foods and wellness” business accounts for about $1.5 billion of annual revenue and that management has said it wants to increase that to about $10 billion in the next decade. ADM’s total revenue last year was nearly $90 billion.
Wild Flavors has production sites in Europe, the U.S., Asia and South America. Its estimated revenue for this year is about $1.36 billion, or 1 billion euros. About 60 percent of its business comes from Europe, ADM said.
Wild is the last name of company chairman and owner Dr. Hans-Peter Wild, whose father founded the business. ADM will pay the purchase price to the owner and funds tied to investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
Shares of ADM closed at $45.77 last week, a new high point for the year, and they are within striking distance of the record high, set just as the recession began, of $48.95.
They closed were up 75 cents at $46.50 on Monday.