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Goldman buys a bakery in move to make dough

BY CSA STAFF

Hearthside Food Solutions sold its 20 manufacturing plants and 150 brands to Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs and the private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners.
Hearthside, previously owned by Wind Point Partners, is said to be the largest independent bakery and contract food manufacturer in North America, offering high quality, grain-based food and snack products for many of the world’s leading premier brands. Hearthside’s product portfolio is focused on four main categories including bars, cookies/crackers, granola/cereals, and snacks. The company said it manufactures more than 150 brands and 1,400 SKUs for its top customers.
“When we launched Hearthside in 2009, we envisioned a company that could transform the contract manufacturing industry,” said Rich Scalise, chairman and CEO of Hearthside. “We have achieved that goal, building an industry leader and a highly successful business in the last five years based on the principles of being fast, flexible and adding more value. Going forward, by leveraging the experience and relationships of both Goldman and Vestar, we are confident we can take the company to the next level of growth in the contract manufacturing industry. We look forward to working with our new partners.”
Vestar is well known investor in the food industry with past investments in companies such as Hain Celestial Seasonings, Michael Foods and Birds Eye. Currently, Vestar’s portfolio includes Del Monte – now Big Heart Pet Brands, the largest pet snack company in U.S., and specialty foods leader Roland Foods.
“Hearthside is not only one of the largest co-manufacturers in the food industry, but also the leader in quality, safety, and innovation. They respond rapidly to industry trends and shifting consumer preferences,” said Dan O’Connell, CEO of Vestar. “Now more than ever, food companies turn to co-manufacturers like Hearthside to help them initiate and accelerate the commercialization process and for timely response to changing consumer preferences. We are excited to work with Rich and his talented team to take advantage of these positive long-term trends and grow the business.”
Hearthside is headquartered in Downers Grove, Ill.

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Spring is the new Black Friday at Walmart

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart has borrowed a page from the playbook of Home Depot and Lowe’s with a new Spring seasonal promotion that leverages the equity of Black Friday.

Walmart said it was featuring Black Friday like prices from March 21-29 on more than 60 outdoor products and took aim at the home improvement channel noting in a press release that it has nearly twice as many locations as the leading home improvement store. To generate traffic, Walmart is featuring two cubic foot bags of red, black and brown mulch for $1.97 and what it said was the largest selection of lawn mowers and grills for less than $200. For example, Walmart is offering a Murray lawn mower for $144, a seven piece Mainstays brand patio set for $298 and a Kingsford brand charcoal grill for $88.

“Nobody does Black Friday better than Walmart, and we’re bringing that same philosophy to our new outdoor living, lawn and garden event by offering incredibly low prices on the products our customers are looking for,” said Michelle Gloeckler, SVP of home for Walmart U.S. “Given the extreme winter many of our customers experienced, we know they are preparing to restore their gardens and outdoor living spaces. This event will help them save money while they transition into the new season.”

Home Depot began a similar promotion in 2010 when it said it had moved Black Friday from November to Spring, noting that the flurry of spending activity that takes place in the Spring is the equivalent for Christmas in the home improvement world. Lowe’s also employed a similar strategy this year with a promotional event called Spring Black Friday encompassing two weekends.

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Sam’s Club tops Amazon in service rankings

BY CSA STAFF

A study of 10,000 U.S. consumers’ attitudes about retail customer service saw Sam’s Club best Amazon.com and dozens of other retailers among a field of 268 companies.

The customer service rankings are detailed in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings study now in its fourth year. Sam’s Club and Amazon.com continued their reign as the highest-rated retailers for the third straight year, each earning an "excellent" rating. Sam’s Club narrowly beat out Amazon.com for the top spot, receiving an 81% rating and an overall rank of 8th out of 268 companies across 19 industries. With ratings of 79% each, Costco, PetSmart, Ace Hardware, and BJ’s Wholesale Club also earned high marks from customers. At the other end of the spectrum, RadioShack and Foot Locker tied for last place among 45 retailers. This is the fourth straight year that RadioShack has been at the bottom of the industry, according to the study.

"Sam’s Club and Amazon.com continue to set the standard in retail customer experience," said Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group.

Other top ranked retailers included Lowe’s and Dollar Tree at 78% and Barnes & Noble and Home Depot at 77%.
In addition to RadioShack (60%) and Foot Locker (62%), other laggards in Temkins survey included Wal-Mart (69%), Macy’s (68%), Toys ‘R’ Us (68%), Sears (67%), Kmart (67%), Apple Store (67%), GameStop (66%) and Gap (64%).
The retail industry overall averaged a 73% rating which put it in a tie for third place of the 19 industries examined.

Other industries studied included airlines, appliance makers, auto dealers, banks, car rental agencies, computer makers, credit card issuers, fast food chains, grocery chains, health plans, hotel chains, insurance carriers, Internet service providers, investment firms, parcel delivery services, software firms, TV service providers, and wireless carriers.

To generate the ratings, Temkin Group asked consumers to evaluate their experiences with a company across three dimensions: functional (can you do what you want to do?), accessible (how easy is it to work with the company?), and emotional (how do you feel about the interactions?). Temkin Group then averaged these three scores to produce a company’s Temkin Experience Rating.

In these ratings, a score of 70% or above is considered "good," and a score of 80% or above is considered "excellent."

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