Private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners acquires Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods

US – Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, one of the pioneers in the plant-based and better-for-you food space, has been acquired by Vestar Capital Partners – an American private equity firm focusing on leveraged buyout transactions in middle-market companies in the United States.

Under the terms of the deal, second-generation family members who owned Dr. Praeger’s — CEO Larry Praeger and President Adam Somberg — will retain their positions and still have a significant stake in the company.

Jeffrey Ansell, a consumer industry veteran and senior advisor to Vestar, will become chairman of Dr. Praeger’s board.

Ansell, who is also chairman for data insights firm IRI (another Vestar portfolio company), was previously CEO of Pinnacle Foods.  He also led Sun Products and had leadership roles at Procter & Gamble.

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Dr. Praeger’s was founded in 1994 by a pair of cardiologists, Dr. Peter Praeger and Dr. Eric Somberg who transformed a distressed fish company into into one that made healthy and tasty frozen products

Dr. Praeger’s is still family-controlled, and has a large portfolio of plant-based foods, as well as frozen fish and better-for-you bowls and veggie sides.

While Dr. Praeger’s is a relatively old brand in the plant-based and better-for-you food niche, both of those areas have never been hotter with consumers.

Dr. Praeger’s products fit into almost every trend that consumers are looking for during the pandemic: healthy, plant-based and convenient food.

As this sector is getting more crowded, Dr. Praeger’s long life in this niche brings a high degree of brand recognition, which means there are consumers excited to try whatever new items the company puts on shelves.

The plant-based and better-for-you food company is also active in the innovation front, launching a number of new products in 2020 including a line of plant-based meat pizza toppings for foodservice.

In October, it debuted new refrigerated veggie burgers, a departure from the more commonplace frozen variety.

Vestar, on the other hand, has had an eye for lucrative investments, with many of its investments are in the food area, and its current portfolio has both big names and rising stars.

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They include IRI, which is one of the top data and analytics firms in the CPG realm, artisanal baked goods brand Nonni’s and flour company Simple Mills.

In a nutshell, combination of a brand that checks many consumers’ boxes and is not afraid to innovate, and a private equity owner with a reputation for helping brands grow is a good deal for Dr. Praeger’s.

Prior to the acquisition, the company was already in a great position but with the the new majority ownership, it’s likely there will be much more to see from the brand in the future.

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