Highlander Partners buys Kernel Season’s

Highlander Partners LP said Jan. 16 that it acquired Chicago Custom Foods LLC, which does business as Kernel Season’s. Sellers were VMG Partners and Brian Taylor, the founder of Kernel Season’s. Kernel, of Chicago, provides popcorn seasoning. Regions Bank and Norwest Mezzanine Partners provided financing.

PRESS RELEASE

DALLAS, Jan. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Highlander Partners L.P., a leading middle market private investment firm based in Dallas, Texas, today announced the acquisition of Chicago Custom Foods, LLC dba Kernel Season’s from VMG Partners and Brian Taylor, the founder of the company.  Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Chicago, IL, Kernel Season’s is the creator and category leader in branded popcorn seasoning.
Kernel’s product portfolio includes more than a dozen popcorn flavors, ranging from simple butter and white cheddar to garlic parmesan and cheesy caramel corn, as well as popcorn oils and drizzles.  The Company’s products are sold in more than 22,000 retailers, including mass merchants, grocery and specialty stores, throughout North America and internationally.  The products also can be found in movie theaters in more than 30 countries worldwide, accounting for over 32,000 screens.
Jeff L. Hull, President and Managing Partner of Highlander, and newly-appointed Chairman of Kernel Season’s, commented, “This acquisition further emphasizes Highlander’s focus on investing in high-quality food companies and the CPG sector in general.  Kernel Season’s is the #1 popcorn-seasoning brand in the U.S. and has tremendous growth opportunities driven by innovation, new customer penetration and increased consumer awareness.  In addition, we have a track record of implementing a ‘buy and build’ approach with our investments and we see significant M&A opportunities that would complement Kernel Season’s product portfolio and business strategy.”
Scott Lerner, CEO of Kernel Season’s, added, “We are excited about the new partnership with Highlander and will benefit from their strong food industry expertise. The management team is energized and our pipeline is full of new opportunities. Our brand has an exceptional consumer awareness and we are well positioned to continue our historical success in the foreseeable future.”
Highlander Partners’ principal focus is on making direct and control investments in manufacturing, consumer products, and food and beverage products. Highlander’s principals have executed more than thirty transactions in the food, confection and snack categories and will use their expertise to pursue acquisitions of both stand-alone businesses and carve-outs from larger companies.  Highlander manages its own proprietary capital and has over $1.2 billion in capital dedicated to private equity investments.  The firm is committed to providing significant capital to this platform to facilitate its growth organically and through acquisitions.
Lincoln International acted as financial advisor to Kernel Season’s and Greenberg Traurig served as legal counsel to Kernel Season’s in the transaction.  Regions Bank provided senior financing and Norwest Mezzanine Partners provided mezzanine debt and equity in support of the transaction.
About Kernel Season’s
Kernel Season’s is the leader in branded popcorn seasoning sold to consumers at movie theatres and retailers, including mass merchants, grocery stores and specialty retailers throughout North America and internationally. For more information on Kernel Season’s, please visit http://www.kernelseasons.com/.
About Highlander Partners
Highlander Partners, L.P. is a Dallas-based private investment firm with over $2.0 billion of assets under management. The firm focuses on making investments in businesses in targeted industries in which the principals of the firm have significant operating and investing experience, including basic manufacturing, food, chemicals, building materials, consumer products, and others. Highlander Partners uses a “buy and build” investment approach, creating value by helping companies grow organically and through acquisitions. For more information, visit www.highlander-partners.com.