For Elliot Penner, president of The French’s Food Co. in Chester, McCormick & Co.’s $4.2 billion agreement to purchase RB Food, French’s parent division, could mean many changes.For Elliot Penner, president of The French’s Food Co. in Chester, McCormick & Co.’s $4.2 billion agreement to purchase RB Food, French’s parent division, could mean many changes.
And many of them could be good for the company, which employs nearly 500 people, including about one-fifth at the New Jersey headquarters.
“We always had thought that (French’s) was a great business that had done really well over the years, and if there was ever a time when we thought that, because of size and scale and capability, there would be a better owner than us, RB, that’s the time that we would sell,” Penner told NJBIZ on Thursday, a day after the deal was announced. “That’s really what drove us to this decision, as well as the industry is changing rapidly and globalization is taking place, and you have to either decide that you are a global company in total or you are not. We realized that our capabilities and scale were not in a position to take full advantage of this great business that we had, and that’s why we decided that we would offer it for sale.”
RB Food — which also includes the Frank’s RedHot and Cattlemen’s brands — is part of RB, also known as Reckitt Benckiser Group, a U.K.-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Parsippany.
Penner did not specify how the deal might affect New Jersey operations.
“Our goal is to continue on with our operation as best we can,” he said. “That is what the plan is. The businesses will be integrated into McCormick, but they really see the value not only in our brands, but in our people. That is why it was exciting for us. One of the cornerstones to our decision was that (McCormick), more than any, really saw the value in the expertise of our people and the strategy in what we have done with the French’s promise.”
McCormick, which Penner said employs 11,000 worldwide, is based in Sparks, Maryland.
“They are in the same business that we are, flavor, and their quality is unsurpassed, similar to ours,” Penner said. “But, really, what was important for us was their views on the community and how they run their business. Culturally, that was similar to us, too. They are genuinely concerned about the consumer and the neighbors that they work with, as well as the people that they employ.”
The French’s Food Co. has grown, on average, 4.5 percent each year since Penner joined the business in 1999. RB has owned French’s since the 1920s.
“French’s is the No. 1 mustard in the world, and Frank’s RedHot is the No. 1 hot sauce in North America, and I think what’s going to happen is that, with these new capabilities and global infrastructure, I think you’re going to see a rapid acceleration of growth and opportunities for those brands that we couldn’t provide,” Penner said.
“I think it gives a great business an opportunity to even be better. That is all I can ask for.”