Arytza sells US frozen pizza business to Brynwood Partners

US – Zurich based food business group Arytza has sold its North America’s take-and-bake pizza business to Brynwood Partners, an American private equity investment firm focused on leveraged buyout and other control investments.

Brynwood Partners is a private equity firm with a large portfolio of consumer brands.

It specializes in acquisition of brands that no longer fit in a larger company’s portfolio.

The private equity firm made the acquisition through its newly created portfolio company Great Kitchens Food Company though the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Following the acquisition, Admir Basic, who previously worked for Aryzta, has been appointed the portfolio company’s president and chief commercial officer.

The Great Kitchens Food Company also appointed Bill Steckel who has a long career of serving in top fiscal roles at a variety of companies, as the company’s chief financial officer.

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The purchase includes Arytza’s Chicago-area 165,000-square-foot pizza crust manufacturing facility and 155,000-square-foot topping plant.

Artyza’s sale of the US business comes at a time when it is facing dire financial times, with problems from its complex business structure and shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic erasing about 98% of share value in five years.

Earlier this year, the company, which bakes goods including McDonald’s hamburger buns and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, furloughed about 30% of its workforce, gave a 15% to 30% salary cut to executives and leadership, and paused production at eight bakeries, including five in the United States.

Arytza’s last several months have been even bumpier with the unexpected departures of former CEO Kevin Toland last month and former chairman Gary McGann in August.

The Irish Times reported in May that the company as a whole has been considering strategic options, and U.S.-based investment firm Elliott Management Corp. has an $890 million offer on the table to buy the entire company.

The acquisition of Aryzta’s pizza business marks the continuation of Brynwood’s investment in brands that have fallen out of fashion.

The American investment firm has 56 different brands under its management, and a large portion are iconic names that have been offloaded by Big Food due to their positioning in slow-growing categories.

Brynwood’s current portfolio includes Buitoni in North America and Hometown Food, which owns Pillsbury and Funfetti baking mixes, Hungry Jack, and baking staples including White Lily and Martha White brands.

While this strategy can be risky if brands are outdated, too expensive to refresh or fall short of the growth targets, private equity firms like Brynwood have the advantage of operating these laggard businesses privately to quietly rebuild them into brands that cater to current consumer tastes.

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