Hershey is expanding further beyond chocolate, agreeing to buy the owner of Tyrell’s potato chips and SkinnyPop popcorn for $921 million.
The U.S. candy giant agreed to buy Amplify Snack Brands for $12 a share, a 71% premium to Friday’s closing price. Amplify, based in Austin, Texas, has about $600 million in debt.
Hershey’s move signals the intent of new Chief Executive Officer Michele Buck to lead consolidation in the snacks industry after the maker of Kisses candy rejected a takeover bid from Oreo maker Mondelez International (MDLZ). During a March investor meeting, Hershey’s management said it was particularly interested in companies that had accelerated growth in the U.S. snack industry. Hershey (HSY) shares have gained 10% this year, valuing the company at $24 billion.
The U.S. confectionery business has been consolidating amid sluggish demand for chocolate. Among other deals in the sector, Mars, the maker of M&Ms and Snickers, purchased a minority stake in another snack company, Kind Bar, last month. Kellogg (K) signed a $600 million deal for protein bar maker Rxbar in October. Hershey has been mentioned as one of the companies planning to bid for Nestle’s U.S. confectionery division.
Big marketers like Hershey have been seeking growth from niche acquisitions amid waning consumer enthusiasm for mainstream brands. Amplify also owns Paqui tortilla chips and Oatmega bars made with whey protein from grass-fed cows in New Zealand.