Family-run Latin food giant Goya weighs possible $3 billion sale

Goya, one of the most iconic names in Latin American cuisine, has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to weigh options that could include a sale of the 83-year-old company, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.

The company has roughly $250 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and could fetch roughly $3 billion in a sale, some of the people said.

Founded by Spanish immigrants, Prudencio Unanue and Carolina Casal in 1936, Goya has long stayed a family company. Its ownership, though, has splintered as its heirs have multiplied. That divided control has, at times, led to disputes over the company’s future. In 2004, disagreements spilled into court, as some heirs pushed to oust Prudencio’s son, Joseph, out of the company. Joseph passed away in 2013.

A sale could address the fragmentation of its ownership. Depending on valuation, some descendants may opt to retain their stake in the event of a sale, or the family could decide against a sale all together, one of the people said.

Prudencio and Carolina’s grandson, Robert Unanue, has been chief executive of Goya since 2004.

In a statement delivered to CNBC, company CEO Robert Unanue said,  “The future of Goya is to continue to build our family legacy and to grow the brand worldwide. For these reasons and many more, Goya is not for sale. To the contrary, over the years we have made acquisitions of other companies in order to expand the footprint of Goya Foods and we continue to do so. We periodically evaluate the company for estate planning and other purposes in the normal course of business.”

Still, Goldman Sachs has sent out financial materials to private equity firms, which companies do not typically do for estate planning purposes, say people familiar. The investment bank has also reached out to potential corporate acquirers, say two people familiar. The company has set a bidding deadline of early June for initial bids, some of the people said.

Goya could attract the eye of private equity firms or a number of large food companies including J.M. Smucker, B&G Foods, Conagra, Unilever, Kraft Heinz and Campbell Soup, the people said.

The people requested anonymity because the information is confidential. Goldman declined to comment.

Secaucus, New Jersey-based Goya, which calls itself the largest U.S. Hispanic-owned food company, sells everything from beans to cheese to canned seafood.

Many large food companies, though, like Kraft Heinz and Campbell, are heavily leveraged and focused on selling rather than acquiring. Those that are on the prowl have generally shifted their focus from larger synergistic deals to buying smaller on-trend brands, like Kind snack bars and RXBAR. Many of Goya’s products like its canned meat are located in the center aisles of the grocery store, a slowing segment as shoppers increasingly head to the perimeter, where fresh food is sold.

Still, sales of ethnic food in the U.S. have been rising. Millennials have been more willing to experiment with new cuisines. They are also looking for new ways to spice up food, as they increasingly focus on clean eating. Between 2013 and 2017, ethnic-flavored products like sauces, seasoning and exotically flavored chips grew by 20%, according to Food Navigator, citing Innova.

The U.S. population of Hispanics meantime, has also been growing. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts the U.S. Hispanic population will reach 62 million by 2020 and 112 million by 2060.

In 2005, Goya invested $500 million to fuel global growth, according to its website. It now has 26 facilities throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Spain. It sells in large retailers like Costco, Walmart’s Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale.

The company got its name when its founder, a fan of artist Francisco Goya, bought the name, which he believed would be easier to pronounce than his own, according to Forbes.

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