Mars, the US food heavyweight, has made another move into foods deemed ‘better for you’ by acquiring ready-meal and sauces company Kevin’s Natural Foods.

The transaction fee was not disclosed but news agency Reuters, quoting people familiar with the matter, said the deal values California-based Kevin’s Natural Foods at nearly $800m.

Kevin’s Natural Foods makes “chef-inspired” sous-vide meals, sides, and sauces.

Last month, Bloomberg reported the company had appointed advisers to explore a takeover.

According to Mars, Kevin’s Natural Foods has seen “double-digit growth” since it was founded in 2019. Mars did not provide specific data.

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By GlobalData

The company’s products are now available across more than 17,000 retail locations in the US, from grocery stores and supermarkets, through to digital commerce. Its products are also sold in Canada, Mexico and the UK.

Co-founded by Dan Costa, Kelsie Costa-Olson and Kevin McCray, Kevin’s Natural Foods was born out of McCray’s desire to be healthier himself. The company has approximately 180 employees.

Mars suggested the products will complement its “food and nutrition” business that includes brands such as Seeds of Change and Foodspring.

Shaid Shah, global president of the Mars Food & Nutrition division, said: “Kevin’s products are of a very high quality, nutritious, and convenient, without compromising on flavour, and are enjoyed by an engaged and loyal customer base across North America. The Kevin’s Natural Foods team has delivered impressive growth since it was founded four years ago and we look forward to drawing on our experience of nurturing and scaling founder-led brands to help bring their products to even more people.”

Kevin’s co-founder and current president McCray said: “We founded Kevin’s with the mission to empower even the busiest people to eat nutritious, great-tasting meals in minutes. Joining the Mars Food & Nutrition portfolio of brands will allow us to accelerate the development of more product innovations and support our mission of bringing Kevin’s to more consumers across markets.”

The acquisition includes an exit of Kevin’s minority investors, TowerBrook Capital Partners and NewRoad Capital Partners.

Although best known for its confectionery brands such as Snickers, Mars has tried to diversify its portfolio into healthier areas in recent years, largely through acquisition.

Its purchases have included protein bar business Kind in 2020 and better-for-you snacks company Tru Fru in 2022.