Mondelez International has sold US unit SnackWell's to Back to Nature Foods Co., a business controlled by private-equity firm Brynwood Partners and in which the global snacks giant owns a minority stake.

SnackWell's manufactures reduced-fat and fat-free cookies and crackers and offers products including crème sandwich cookies, devil's food cakes, fudge pretzels and popcorn products.

Back to Nature CEO and president Vincent Fantegrossi said SnackWell's is an "iconic brand" that "significantly increases" the group's scale in the crackers and cockies segment.

For its part, Brynwood senior managing partner Henk Hartong said the private equity group was "thrilled" at the "confidence" Mondelez has displayed in Brynwood by handing over operational control of another brand to the Back to Nature business.

In August 2012, the then Kraft Foods sold the majority of Back to Nature to Brynwood. Kraft kept a "substantial minority stake" in the business. Two months later, Kraft formally split in two, forming global snacks company Mondelez and US-focused grocery company Kraft Foods Group.

Last week, Brynwood announced plans to sell another US snacks business, confectioner DeMet's Candy Co., to the owner of chocolate brand Godiva, Turkish food group Yildiz Holding.

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Back to Nature Foods Company, LLC Acquires the SnackWell's Business from Mondelez Global LLC

GREENWICH, CT - December 30, 2013 - Back to Nature Foods Company, LLC, a portfolio company of Brynwood Partners VI L.P., announced today that it has acquired the SnackWell's cookies and snacks business from Mondelez Global LLC. Terms and conditions of the transaction were not disclosed.

Brynwood VI and Mondelez Global LLC formed the Back to Nature joint venture in 2012 through an innovative structure, whereby Brynwood VI acquired operating control while Mondelez Global LLC retained a minority position in the new company. Back to Nature was one of the original natural food brands in the United States. Since the acquisition, Brynwood VI has effected a smooth transition of the business, accelerated new product introductions, and increased marketing focus.

SnackWell's was originally launched by Nabisco, Inc. in 1992 as a line of reduced-fat and fat-free cookies and crackers. The brand offers its loyal consumers a healthy snacking alternative with great tasting products, all with reduced-fat content. SnackWell's offers products including Crème Sandwich Cookies, Devil's Food Cakes, Fudge Pretzels, Yogurt Pretzels, and Popcorn products in portion control sizes. SnackWell's products are widely distributed in the United States through leading retailers.

"We look forward to owning the SnackWell's brand and integrating it into our Back to Nature organization," said Vincent Fantegrossi, President and CEO of Back to Nature. "Its healthy attributes, loyal consumer base, and strong distribution make SnackWell's a very complementary product line offering to our Back to Nature products. SnackWell's is an iconic brand and we are excited about the potential that this acquisition brings to our company. SnackWell's significantly increases our scale in the important cookie and cracker categories." 

"We are thrilled to announce the SnackWell's transaction and are honored that Mondelez Global LLC has the confidence in Brynwood Partners to add another brand to this unique joint venture arrangement," said Henk Hartong, Senior Managing Partner of Brynwood VI and Non-Executive Chairman of Back to Nature. Mr. Hartong continued, "We are excited to continue to work with Mondelez Global LLC in our collective efforts to maximize the value of Back to Nature, which will be enhanced by the addition of SnackWell's."

Brynwood Partners has developed a unique niche of being the lower middle market firm of choice for corporate divestitures. In its 29-year history, Brynwood Partners has now acquired 39 corporate brands from 15 different corporate sellers, including the SnackWell's acquisition. The SnackWell's transaction marks Brynwood Partners' second transaction with Mondelez Global LLC in addition to two others with Kraft Foods, Inc., the predecessor company of Mondelez Global LLC's parent, Mondelez International, Inc.

Brynwood Partners has a well-established track record of reviving smaller brands or businesses that are divested from large corporations. Some of Brynwood Partners' investments, both current and prior, include:

Zest bar soap and body wash (acquired from The Procter & Gamble Company);

Turtles chocolate candy and Flipz chocolate covered pretzels (acquired from Nestlé USA, Inc.);

TrueNorth nut-clusters and Kretschmer wheat germ (both acquired from PepsiCo, Inc.);

Lightlife meat alternative products (acquired from ConAgra Foods, Inc.); and

Balance Bar energy/nutrition bars (acquired from Kraft Foods).

Brynwood Partners has a strong investment track record in the food space.

Brynwood V holds an investment in DeMet's Candy Company, a leading United States-based chocolate confectionery company manufacturing and marketing the Turtles, Flipz, and Treasures brands. Besides Back to Nature, Brynwood VI owns Pearson Candy Company, a leading manufacturer and marketer of widely recognized confectionery brands, including Pearson's Salted Nut Roll, Pearson's Mint Patties, Pearson's Nut Goodies, Pearson's Bun, and Bit-O-Honey along with Lightlife Foods, Inc., a manufacturer and marketer of soy-based vegetarian burgers, hot dogs, tempeh, and other frozen and refrigerated items in the meat alternative category.

Original source: Brynwood Partners