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Local Smucker plant gets new owner

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    Exterior of the J.M. Smucker factory on West Laskey Road Tuesday in Toledo.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Exterior of the J.M. Smucker factory on West Laskey Road Tuesday in Toledo.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
    Buy This Image

The J.M. Smucker Co. manufacturing plant on Laskey Road in Toledo has been sold as part of a decision by the food brands company to get out of the baking business.

Late Monday evening Orrville, Ohio-based Smucker said that it was selling its baking brands to a Connecticut investment firm, Brynwood Partners, for $375 million.

Included in the deal are the Pillsbury, Hungry Jack, Martha White, White Lily, and Jim Dandy brands, plus Smucker’s 650,000-square-foot facility at 1250 W. Laskey that employs 255 full-time workers.

The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of August, pending regulatory approvals.

Top officials from the Smucker Co. and Brynwood Partners, which is based in Greenwich, Conn., visited the Toledo plant Monday evening to discuss the sale with workers and answer questions.

Henk Hartong III, chairman and chief executive officer of Brynwood Partners, said Tuesday by phone that workers were eager to know what plans the investment firm has for the Toledo plant. Mr. Hartong said that because the deal has not closed, he is limited in what he can say about any plans.

However, “We’re an investment company,” the chairman said. “Obviously we buy businesses with the hopes that we can make them more valuable. We don’t buy them to make them less valuable.”

Mr. Hartong said, “There are lots of ways to accomplish that and we’ll get into it after the deal closes. But we want to optimize the possibilities of this transaction.”

The Pillsbury asset actually is a transfer of a licensing agreement with General Mills, which formerly owned the Toledo plant. It gives Brynwood Partners full control of Pillsbury’s U.S. shelf-stable baking products that are sold in stores — including flour, dry baking mixes, and ready-to-spread frosting.

Collectively the five brands being sold generated $370 million in sales last fiscal year for Smucker, the Ohio-based company said.

Brynwood Partners already owns several well-known food brands, including SunnyD and Juicy Juice.

In March it was reported that Smucker might be ready to sell its baking business, prompting concerns from Local 58G, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union, which represents workers at the 24-year-old Toledo plant.

Smucker president and CEO Mark Smucker said in a statement that the sale will help his company focus on brands that better align with its core business.

“The divestiture reflects our strategy to further focus our portfolio and develop a strong presence in pet food, coffee, and snacking — all large, growing categories with sustainable growth projections,” Mr. Smucker said, “Pillsbury, Martha White, and Hungry Jack remain iconic brands and, although they no longer align with our strategic priorities, we are confident they will be nurtured at Brynwood. While the decision to divest these brands was difficult, it underscores our commitment to allocating resources toward those areas of the business critical to our growth.”

Brynwood Partners formed a new firm, Hometown Food Co., to acquire and manage the five brands plus the Toledo plant. Hometown Food will be based in Chicago.

“We are excited to add the famous Pillsbury and Hungry Jack brands along with the White Lily, Jim Dandy, and Martha White brands and their great tasting products to our investment portfolio,” Mr. Hartong said in a statement released Monday. “The iconic portfolio of brands and the company’s strong Midwestern manufacturing footprint will provide us with a solid platform to invest in and to grow,” he added.

Smucker bought the Toledo plant in 2004 from International Multifoods Corp. of Minneapolis, which bought it in 2001 from General Mills Corp. General Mills built the baking mix plant in 1994 and ran it for seven years. The plant is adjacent to a closed General Mills plant that made Cheerios cereal for decades but closed in 2002.

Contact Blade Business Writer Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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