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Conagra nears deal to buy owner of Boomchickapop popcorn

  • Conagra is nearing a deal to buy Angie's Artisan Treats
  • The potential deal would continue Conagra's efforts to bolster its portfolio of branded food
A bag of ConAgra Foods' Orville Redenbacher's brand popping corn.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A bag of ConAgra Foods' Orville Redenbacher's brand popping corn.

Orville Redenbacher's popcorn owner Conagra Brands is nearing a deal to buy Angie's Artisan treats, maker of Angie's Boomchickapop popcorn, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The potential deal comes as sales of big food companies have slowed, with their staples replaced by upstart — often healthier or fresher — brands.

The people cautioned the deal is not yet final and could still fall apart.

Conagra and Angie's did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Angie's private equity owner TPG Growth declined to comment.

For Chicago, Illinois-based Conagra, the acquisition would be another step in its efforts to bolster and modernize its portfolio of brands, which also includes Hebrew National franks and Reddi-wip whipped cream. Conagra has been focused on growing and honing its branded business since shedding its private label segment for $2.7 billion in 2016.

It acquired Frontera Foods in 2016 and Duke's meat snacks' parent company earlier this year. It also sold its Wesson oil business.

The potential deal comes in the wake of other Big Food acquisitions of smaller brands, including Hershey's purchase of Krave meat jerky in 2015 and Mondelez's acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods the same year.

Angie's began 16 years ago as Angie's Kettle Corn, which founders Angie Bastian and her husband Dan started in their Mankato, Minnesota, garage. They later renamed the company to reflect its broadening product assortment, but kept the name "Angie's" to distinguish from the many popcorn brands named for men: Orville, Cracker Jack and Vic's.

The popcorn, which is packaged in brightly colored pastel bags, comes in flavors such as sweet and salty kettle corn and dill.

The company was acquired by private equity firm TPG Growth in 2014.

Snacks have been a pocket of growth for the food industry, as consumers increasingly prefer their food on-the-go. Among snacks, salty bites such as popcorn and chips reign supreme.

Salty snacks generated $27 billion in sales across U.S. retail stores in the twelve months ended April 1, 2017, according to data service Nielsen. That is more than the $21 billion spent on candy, $17 billion on cheese and $7 billion on cookies.

Still, popcorn brands have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the past several years. Skinny Pop parent Amplify Snack Brands, which went public in 2015 amid a craze for its sunflower oil coated kernels, has seen its stock more than halve since its IPO.