Mistral Gets Juiced with Country Pure Foods

Mistral Equity Partners today added its sixth portfolio company: Country Pure Foods, a producer and distributor of single-serve juices for convenience and grocery stores.

One of the Country Pure’s major segments is serving institutions like schools and hospitals, says Andy Heyer,  Mistral Equity’s managing partner. Brands include Ardmore Farms, Glacier Valley, and Natural Country.

First Atlantic Capital and DN Partners were the sellers. Country Pure’s management is retaining a stake, Heyer says, while Bank of Montreal is providing senior debt financing.

Country Pure is an expert packager, Heyer says. The Akron, Ohio-based company provides its single-serve juices in different packages, including cartons, plastic bottles or even paper containers with paper straws (the latter are typically used in prisons because you can’t make weapons with them, he says). “Depending on the particular use, Country Pure can give you 40 to 50 flavors in any shape you want,” says Heyer.

He declined to disclose what Mistral paid. But Heyer did reveal the big secret behind why juices in hospitals or on airlines are packaged in small containers with flat, sliver tops. “They have flat, silver tops so they can stack the trays easier,” he says.

First Atlantic, which declined comment, has owned Country Pure for 15 years.  The company was created through the merger of Natural Country Farms and Ohio Pure Foods in 1995. Three years later, First Atlantic bought juicemaker Ardmore Farms, and rolled it in.

Country Pure is the sixth deal for Mistral since the firm was started in 2007 to focus on consumer staples.The firm typically seeks to invest $15 million to $30 million equity per transaction. Mistral, in 2008, bought Shearer’s Foods, which makes Tangos tortilla chips and Shapers whole grain chips.

Mistral also owns a stake in Jamba Juice. In January 2009, the buyout shop paid $19.55 million for 70% of Jamba’s preferred stock, which converts into a roughly 17% stake of common, Heyer says. When asked why Jamba was so expensive (yes, I want to know why I must pay $4.79 for a 16 oz. “strawberry wild” smoothy), Heyer says: “It’s fresh and natural. There are no preservatives used and each [drink] is custom made.”

Mistral did not use an outside adviser. Jeff Ginsberg led the deal team for Mistral. Harris Williams advised First Atlantic.