Heartisan Expands With North Country Packaging Acquisition
Barron, Wisconsin-based Heartisan Foods, a leading manufacturer and the largest online U.S. seller of specialty and flavored cheese, announced it is buying North Country Packaging, based in Almena, Wisconsin. The transformative deal will triple Heartisan’s manufacturing capacity and support the fast-growing Cheese Brothers online brand with expanded fulfilment capabilities. This will allow Heartisan to launch new, innovative products across cheese spreads and cheese curds. This helps to support Heartisan’s growth in the expanding cheese snack category.
Strengthening Bonds And Expanding Visions: Leadership Comments On The Acquisition
North Country co-founders Kendall and Maria Goossen will stay on as part of the transaction. Kendall will be taking a senior executive role at Heartisan Foods. Both Kendall and Maria will retain a significant stake in the combined entity. The North Country operations will remain in Almena, about 15 miles from Heartisan’s co-packing location.
“We’ve known the Goossens and their colleagues at North Country for years. We share the exact same vision,” says Gene Graf, CEO of Heartisan. “The added capacity comes at just the right time, given that we’re currently running our production facilities at full steam. There are 32 different North Country cheese spreads and cheese curds to choose from. Heartisan’s customers have a different flavor to enjoy every day of any month. “This deal is the perfect way to accelerate growth, speed up innovation and expand cutting-edge products at both companies,” Goossen adds.
Financing, Facilities, And Future Prospects
To finance the purchase of North Country, New York-based Ronin Capital Partners is using a $10 million revolving credit line established for Heartisan when the latter was formed in 2021. Ronin created Heartisan through the simultaneous acquisition and merger of flavored and smoked cheese specialists Red Apple Cheese, Barron County Cheese and the direct-to-consumer e-commerce business Cheese Brothers. Heartisan also sells the Naturally Good Kosher brand at retail.
Tiffany Bell, Heartisan board member and partner at Ronin, notes North Country Packaging’s two facilities encompass more than 30,000 square feet. This includes capacity for cold and dry storage — which more than doubles production capacity for Heartisan. In addition to online sales, Heartisan’s flavored and smoked cheese is sold across the United States through more than 12,000 retail outlets.
“Expanding capacity and driving innovation in new flavors and product categories shows our retail and consumer partners how committed we are to supporting their needs and driving growth” Bell says. “The expanded capacity will enhance our margins and give us better control of the supply chain, fulfillment and quality.”
The Path Forward For Heartisan
Lori Henningfield, chief commercial officer for Heartisan Foods, adds that while Heartisan’s Cheese Brothers brand currently is online-only, Heartisan is actively pursuing opportunities to expand into retail. The North Country acquisition will quadruple the brand’s reach.
North Country’s products range from tomato and sweet basil curds to habanero ghost pepper spreads. While some of the products will remain under the North Country brand name, the spreads and curds that will be sold under the expanding Cheese Brothers line will fall under that brand umbrella, Henningfield notes.
“The transaction also will expand our geographical reach simply because we’ll have more capacity,” she adds. “We’ll be able to reach more retailers with all of our brands and have more finished goods inventory.”
Heartisan, with yearly revenues of more than $50 million, has seen sales and profits rise 30% annually since its creation. As is typical in Ronin investments, Bell was seconded to Heartisan as CFO at the time of the group’s creation in 2021, setting up the infrastructure, systems and processes that have enabled the management team to drive Heartisan’s exceptional growth.
“We’re very excited to move forward,” Bell says.
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Source: Cheese Market News