1H 2019 Florida PE Deal Report

Van Drunen Farms and SouthAm Freeze Dry Announce New Business Partnership

The Van Drunen Family of Companies (“Van Drunen Farms”) and SouthAm Freeze Dry (“SouthAm”) today announced a new partnership whereby Van Drunen Farms will take a majority stake in SouthAm.

Van Drunen Farms, with headquarters in Momence, IL, is a world leader in agriculture, food science, and dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and grains. SouthAm is a trusted freeze-dried fruit supplier to many global CPG companies and is widely known as a leader in delivering the highest quality freeze-dried ingredients. Its headquarters are just outside of Chile’s capital, Santiago. The company enjoys strong competitive advantages that come from its ability to leverage direct, local access to the rich farming output of Chile and the South American supply chain. SouthAm combines a local focus with an international reach.

“This partnership will better position both SouthAm and Van Drunen Farms, offering unique and substantial benefits for our customers,” remarked Kevin Van Drunen, Co-Owner and President of Van Drunen Farms, and Board Member of SouthAm. “It is exciting to see our global platform expanded with a partner that shares our long term vision to be a global leader in freeze-dry ingredients and has a truly international reach.”

The investment in SouthAm provides Van Drunen Farms, including its dietary supplement powerhouse FutureCeuticals, a key competitive advantage for South and Central American fruits in the food, functional food, and supplement spaces, as well as continues SouthAm’s innovation, which is focused on the development of native herbal, fruit, and vegetable ingredients. The partnership allows both organizations to enhance their access to global supply, which benefits each of their respective customer bases.

“We are thrilled to take this next step as a company,” added Boris Hirmas Said, founder and Chairman of the Board of SouthAm. “We started in 2004 with a mission to create a world-class business to showcase Chile’s unique capacity for premium quality manufacturing and food products. With that initial goal achieved, we are now ready to partner with Van Drunen Farms to bring this message and these products to the world. It is truly a win for us, for our Van Drunenpartners, and above all for our customers.  Ultimately, with our combined resources we have now broadened our direct supply chain to both hemispheres, making us both more efficient and effective.”

“What is truly unique about this partnership, and something that is very important to us at Van Drunen Farms, is that both SouthAm and Van Drunen Farms are family owned companies,” remarked Jeff Van Drunen, Co-Owner of Van Drunen Farms, President of FutureCeuticals, and Vice Chairman of the Board of SouthAm. “Once all of the due diligence and pro forma is complete, it’s these kinds of intangibles that transform a project from a fine idea that makes good financial sense into something intrinsically great for everyone involved. Culture and values matter to us, and SouthAm aligns perfectly with who we are as people, a family, and as a corporate entity.”

Cassel Salpeter & Co. served as exclusive financial advisor to SouthAm. The team was led by Chairman James S. Casseland Director Philip Cassel.

“It is a rare occurrence for a partnership to come together with two parties that share such deep-rooted values within their organizations,” said James Cassel. “We believe that Van Drunen Farms and SouthAm, with their similar long-term approach, will create a strong foundation for success well into the future. It was a pleasure to play an important part in facilitating the combination of these two great companies.”

About SouthAm Freeze Dry

SouthAm fuses creativity and innovation with world-class quality standards. SouthAm takes a holistic approach to business; handling everything from sourcing and manufacturing of freeze dried food solutions to custom tailored product development.

About Van Drunen Holdings

The Van Drunen Family of Companies is a global presence in the food, functional food, and nutraceutical industries. Van Drunen Farms, founded in 1856, is a global leader in the growing of culinary herbs, as well as the dehydration of fruit, vegetable, grain, and herbal food ingredients. VDF FutureCeuticals, Inc. is a vertically integrated functional food ingredient, product development, and bioanalytical research and discovery company serving the supplement and functional food industries with patented and clinically-researched functional ingredients. VDF Europe operates an expanding freeze drying facility in Serbia serving the EU, the near East, and Asia. Golden State Herbs is an agricultural and air drying operation located in Thermal, California. Van Drunen Specialty Seeds, a non-gmo seed development company currently focused on proprietary basil seed varietals, operates in Thermal, California.

About Cassel Salpeter & Co.

Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC is an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide. Together, the firm’s professionals have more than 50 years of experience providing private and public companies with a broad spectrum of investment banking and financial advisory services,  including: mergers and acquisitions, equity and debt capital raises. Co-founded by James Cassel and Scott Salpeter, the firm’s headquarters are in Miami.

SOURCE Van Drunen Farms; FutureCeuticals, Inc.

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5 things you should never cut corners on when growing a successful business

By James S. Cassel

When Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas was asked why his company’s burgers were square, he replied, “Because we never cut corners.” Thomas’ grandmother Minnie reportedly instilled this value in him, and his reply is a reminder that with some aspects of your business, you can’t afford to cut corners. Reducing effective marketing, customer service, employee benefits, and cybersecurity, or not nurturing your company’s core DNA, will cost you.

A study by marketing service OutboundEngine found that a staggering 50 percent of business owners admit to not having a marketing plan. It reports 55 percent of owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) spend less than 5 percent of annual revenue on marketing, and over 58 percent of SMB owners spent just five hours a week or less on marketing.

If the study is accurate, these companies are heading down a slippery slope. Keeping your company top-of-mind is fundamental to success and growth. Resources spent on strategic marketing is money you should get back with a healthy return.

Too often when times get tough, owners make ill-advised cuts to marketing/PR/ad budgets because they don’t understand the importance of these fundamental tools for stabilizing or growing a company. A business’ future viability requires not just cost controls, but revenue enhancement. Ill- advised slashing, or not putting in the time, effort or resources to successfully market your company will slowly deplete your business.

Remember not to under- or overspend, but work with your team to get your message out effectively.

Now, take a moment to consider the last time you reached out to a company and think about that customer service experience. Was it easy to find someone to handle your problem? Did the company resolve the matter quickly? If you’re a smart consumer and the answer was “no,” you likely moved on to another company to get that product/service.

Companies like Amazon and Lexus consistently rank as top customer service providers. Look to their efficiencies and strategies as a road map to your company’s customer service success. This is your front line of defense against bad-word-of-mouth and negative reviews online. Whether you’re building a culture of customer service, choosing the right vendor to handle inbound calls, or selecting digital customer service providers, in today’s era, with a negative review just a few clicks away, customer service is more important than ever.

Another area to support is your team, maybe your most important asset. If you hope to recruit and retain the top talent, potential and current employees need to know you’re willing to invest in them. Everything from company retreats, education, vacation time, and other benefits, matter.

Securing employee buy-in is directly correlated to how much you value your team, and how you treat your employees may ultimately affect how they deal with your clients and customers. If you have underappreciated employees, you’ll be faced with costly turnovers, problematic recruiting, or discover your employees are unwilling to deliver the level of service essential to your success. Little things matter when it comes to building esprit de corps. Don’t skimp here.

Underneath everything your company does, there should be a recognizable identity. Remember your mission and never forget your principles. You must know what your core DNA is, then you need to build and nurture that. And, if your company is growing, but its identity is being diluted, you have a problem. It’s time to regroup to ensure that the one good thing you are known for, is the one thing that never changes.

Finally, highly publicized trade secrets thefts and the Equifax and Capital One data breaches show there are malicious actors out there looking to target you next. Skimping on adequate cybersecurity measures to safeguard your customer data, trade secrets and intellectual property will end up costing you customers, while saddling your outfit with financial liability and huge image problems. All this can mean the death of your business.

Every company owner is faced with the task that only ends when the business ends: Ensuring that your operation is lean and efficient. But as you’re trimming costs, remember not to be pennywise and pound-foolish. There are certain things your business just can’t afford to do without.

James S. Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co. jcassel@casselsalpeter.com.

South-Am sold a majority interest to Van Drunen Farms

  • Background: South-Am Freeze Dry SpA (“South-Am”), founded in 2004 and based in Chile, is a full-service manufacturer of premium freeze-dried fruits, vegetables, and powders, driven by top standards of food safety and traceability. South-Am fuses creativity and innovation with world-class quality standards.
  • Cassel Salpeter:
    • Served as financial advisor to the Company
    • Distressed operations with excess plant capacity and negative cash flow
    • Spin-out of a non-core business unit
  • Challenges:
    • Niche industry with a limited number of potential buyers
    • Expedited timeline to close
    • Spin-out of a non-core business unit
  • Outcome: On August 14, 2019, Van Drunen Farms (“VDF”) acquired a majority interest in South-Am. VDF is a world leader in agriculture, food science, and dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • The partnership formed between South-Am and VDF provided South-Am with a significant minority stake, and quickly filled excess plant capacity, providing a path to profitability.