Hormel buys Applegate Farms as emphasis on organic food grows

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Austin-based Hormel Foods has agreed to buy Applegate Farms, a popular organic meats company, becoming the latest food giant to acquire a natural label.

“A growing number of consumers are choosing natural and organic products. This deal allows us to expand the breadth of our protein offerings to provide consumers more choice,” Jeffrey Ettinger, chief executive officer at Hormel Foods, said in a news release.

Applegate's all-natural deli meats, frozen burgers, bacon, hot dogs and dinner sausages will be added to Hormel's large portfolio of brands that includes its signature meats, as well as Spam and Skippy.

“The Applegate team has built a great brand, and consumers can rest assured there will not be any changes to the way Applegate meats are raised and produced. Together, we can provide a faster path to expanded offerings in this high-growth category," Ettinger added.

Applegate founder Stephen McDonnell also released a statement reassuring customers its organic and natural products would stay that way, adding Hormel's acquisition of the company is an opportunity to grow Applegate's presence and expand the natural and organic food movement, an Applegate news release says.

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McDonnell founded Applegate in 1987 and it's been run as a family-owned business for decades. But he suffered a stroke in 2013 and says he can no longer run the company. Its mission will stay the same however, the company explains on its website.

The $775 million deal was announced Tuesday. The Star Tribune says this is the third-largest acquisition for Hormel in the past two years.

New Jersey-based Applegate will operate as a standalone subsidiary in Hormel's refrigerated foods segment, the news release said. Operations will remain in New Jersey.

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