Ask a specialty food producer who they look up to, and they’ll likely name Stonewall Kitchen. Over its 25-year lifetime, the gourmet food and kitchenware maker has launched roughly 2,000, many of which are carried in over 6,000 wholesale accounts nationwide and internationally. The brand also has 10 retail stores and runs its own demonstration-style cooking school out of its York, Maine headquarters.
But for Stonewall Kitchen CEO John Stiker, that this is just the beginning.
Now, the company is looking to further build out its gourmet food empire by diversifying. The hope is to create a platform of numerous specialty brands across all categories. As a first step in accomplishing this lofty goal, Stonewall Kitchen and its majority owner private equity firm Centre Partners closed its first acquisition, gourmet pickled vegetable and garnish brand Tillen Farms.
Given the team’s robust experience in the industry, Stonewall believes it can bring brand building and product development skills, as well as omni-channel distribution to acquired brands.
Tillen and Stonewall have already started to explore these synergies. Stiker said that wherever Stonewall Kitchen is sold and Tillen Farms is not — and vice-versa — he would like to fill that gap. The companies have also already begun working on new innovations. This June, Tillen Farms expects to launch four new products that were developed with Stonewall, which will include an entrance into olives and an expanded presence in cherries.
Tillen Farms founder and longtime specialty channel veteran Timothy Metzger said that when Stonewall Kitchen approached him about the deal, he was excited about the doors it would open in terms of collaboration and distribution.
“I am on cloud nine,” Metzger said. “It is a thrilling opportunity to join a world class organization. These are simply outstanding people who were as equally committed to their brand as we were to ours so it made for a wonderful marriage.”
Tillen Farms won’t be an only child for long. Stiker said he’d love to add another brand to the mix in 2018, but that he’s looking to do so organically.
“We are patient about it,” Stiker said. “We are not driven by timelines so much as we are driven by finding the next opportunity, whatever that may be.”
To learn more about Stonewall Kitchen’s synergies with Tillen Farms and its overall M&A strategy to build its specialty foods platform, watch the video above.