The news this morning that sent the stock market surging was a proposed merger between the top two candy and snack manufacturing companies in the United States: Mondelez and Hershey. The news sent shares of Hershey dramatically upward, and shocked others in the food and beverage industry space.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the proposed deal is for $23 billion and the financial markets have responded with shares of Hershey at a 52 week high. The proposal, if approved by regulators, would create one company under the Hershey brand umbrella.
Mondelez split from Kraft Foods about four years ago and has largely struggled to gain brand recognition. The name, Mondelez, has been problematic for the company because the American consumer believes that the products are made in Mexico and other countries and shipped in to the U.S. marketplace (which is true in some cases and not true in others). This merger represents a potential makeover for Mondelez to set a whole new branding message around one of the quintessential American brands: Hershey. The fact that they are willing to pay megabucks for this acquisition represents the desperation they have in reinventing themselves.
I believe that what fascinates me and so many others who have worked in the food industry space and also have knowledge of the financial markets is that this deal is indicative of the nationalistic agenda that has been sweeping the world. The markets have been struggling due to the “Brexit” decision that many see as nationalism gaining a victory with Great Britain separating from the E.U. last week.
This proposed merger is all about nationalism as much as it is about consolidation of two large corporations to cut costs and maximize profit margins. The guys at Mondelez have an opportunity to market their brands with a whole new strategic shift under the Hershey name. They can tout that the company headquarters is now in Hershey, PA which is an iconic American destination, especially now in the height of the summer vacation season.
Mondelez International is headquartered in Deerfield, IL and employs over 100,000 people. They hold the brand rights to Oreo, Nabisco, Cadbury, Chips Ahoy, and Triscuit just to name a few of their billion dollar brand lines. The company generates tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue and this merger would make the combined entity a significant competitor to Nestle in the marketplace.
The branding and P.R. aspects of this merger are just one component of the scenario. Mondelez had grown essentially to their capacity and so M&A activity is the only other pathway to getting larger. The synergies between both companies are evident, as the combined entity would conceivable grow the confectionary brand lines through shared intellectual property and manufacturing technology techniques.
The new combined entity would have significant power in the negotiations for retail shelf space and most likely see cost savings from streamlined distribution operations as well. The combined company will most likely look to grow their market share in the cookie and cracker industry segment.
The cascading effect will be for the other food companies in the next tier beneath Nestle and the newly proposed Hershey, companies like ConAgra, Kellogg, and Campbell Soup. Those companies will be key players for the purchase of brands that both Mondelez and Hershey will potentially have to divest in order to satisfy regulatory boards for anti-trust reasons.
The proposed combination of Mondelez and Hershey would also have more sway over suppliers of food ingredients and could command a whole new system for doing business which would have a direct impact on the food ingredients market place in the way of cost cutting and potential consolidation of product submissions.
In the end analysis, the hurdles remain for this combined company to become a reality, but if it does gain approval it will be yet another example of American corporate largesse. It also represents the lengths a company will go in order to makeover their image in the court of public opinion. The impact on consumer perception is hard to tell until it occurs, but perception is reality and that concept is at the center of this latest merger in the American food industry landscape.