Vestar News

Vestar VII Announces Acquisition of Dr. Praeger's

NEW YORK, Jan. 21, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Vestar Capital Partners, a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm, announced today that it has made a majority growth investment into Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, a fast-growing brand specializing in delicious, nutritious plant-based frozen and refrigerated foods made from simple ingredients. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Dr. Praeger’s has been a pioneer in the better-for-you food space for more than 25 years. Founded in 1994 by two heart surgeons with a mission to provide nutritious, delicious and convenient frozen foods, Dr. Praeger’s offers a range of vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, soy free, Kosher, and non-GMO foods. The company’s vegetable-focused lines of veggie burgers, meat alternative burgers, sausages and nuggets, kids Littles, appetizers, snacks, breakfasts and sides are sold in leading food retailers, in stores and online, nationwide.

Headquartered in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, Dr. Praeger’s is led by second generation family members Larry Praeger, CEO, and Adam Somberg, President, who will be continuing in their current roles and will remain significant investors in the company.

“We are extremely proud of the high growth better-for-you food brand our families have built,” said Mr. Praeger. “When our fathers co-founded the company 25 years ago, they were truly innovators. In today’s competitive market, our partnership with Vestar will help provide the financial backing, industry relationships and category expertise to continue to build on our momentum.”

“The U.S. better-for-you market has never been stronger, and we are excited to partner with a company that has been at the forefront of this trend and knows the market intimately,” said Winston Song, Managing Director and Co-Head of Consumer at Vestar. “Larry and Adam have done a tremendous job building the company and developing new products that speak to today’s consumers – flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans and those who seek a healthier lifestyle. We look forward to partnering with the Praeger and Somberg families as well as the senior management team to strategically accelerate growth.”

“With Vestar’s support, the company aims to launch further product innovations that will continue to deliver healthy, great tasting foods at an attractive price,” said Mr. Somberg. “We are fortunate to have some of the most loyal customers in the industry, but with more consumers eating in and looking for better food choices, the timing couldn’t be better to team with Vestar to explore ways to expand the brand.”

As part of Vestar’s investment, Jeffrey Ansell, a 35+ year consumer industry veteran and Senior Advisor to Vestar, will join the Dr. Praeger’s board as Chairman. He is currently Chairman of Information Resources Inc. (IRI), a data, insights, and information services company serving the consumer products industry. Mr. Ansell was previously Chairman and CEO of Sun Products, CEO of Pinnacle Foods, and prior to that spent 25 years in leadership positions at Procter & Gamble.

“Larry and Adam have inspired and led an impressive company featuring innovative, healthier food products that align with choices today’s consumers are seeking,” said Mr. Ansell. “There’s great opportunity to build on this strong foundation and grow the Dr. Praeger’s brand through increased awareness, trial, distribution and continued innovation. Vestar has a long history of partnering with companies to strengthen these fundamentals and help position them for greater success.”

Dr. Praeger’s marks the most recent investment in Vestar’s long history of investing behind family and founder-owned businesses focused on better-for-you food. The firm’s current food investments include Simple Mills, an innovative, market-leading better-for-you cracker, cookie and baking mix brand in the natural and organic channel, Roland Foods, a leading importer and supplier of specialty foods, Nonni’s, a leading manufacturer of premium artisanal cookies and baked goods, and Presence Marketing, the leading national sales broker dedicated exclusively to representing natural and organic food, beverage and personal care brands.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel and Piper Sandler & Co. acted as financial advisor to Vestar. Giannuzzi Lewendon served as legal counsel and J.P. Morgan acted as financial advisor to Dr. Praeger’s.

About Dr. Praeger’s
For over 25 years, Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods has offered delicious and convenient frozen food options for the whole family. Founded by two heart surgeons determined to make healthy food easily accessible, the company remains family-owned and operated. Dr. Praeger’s is a leader in the all-natural, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher frozen food categories and has the #1 selling SKU, California Veggie Burger, at Whole Foods as well as a wide range of products including Veggie Burgers, Bowls, Cakes, Puffs and Hash Browns, sustainable Seafood items, kids Littles and more. For more information visit www.drpraegers.com.

About Vestar Capital Partners
Vestar Capital Partners is a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm specializing in management buyouts and growth capital investments. Vestar invests and collaborates with incumbent management teams and private owners to build long-term enterprise value, with a focus on Consumer, Business & Technology Services and Healthcare. Since its founding in 1988, Vestar funds have invested $7 billion in 83 companies – as well as more than 200 add-on acquisitions – with a total value of approximately $50 billion. For more information on Vestar, please visit www.vestarcapital.com.

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