Comax Flavors sells majority stake to Florida Food Products


Dive Brief:

  • Florida Food Products has acquired the majority stake in Comax Manufacturing Corp. from the Calabretta family, which founded the New York-based natural flavors provider more than 40 years ago. The Calabretta family will keep an equity stake in the combined business. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • FFP, which produces naturally sourced vegetable, tea, botanical and coffee extracts for applications in beverages, processed and cured meat, and plant-based meat alternatives, said Comax’s natural flavors will help make it a “go-to source” for clean label ingredients. Comax will become part of FFP’s taste division and continue to operate its manufacturing plant in Melville, New York, and oversee R&D at its Marlton, New Jersey, facility. 
  • The acquisition demonstrates FFP’s intent at grabbing a leading share of the natural ingredients space, as consumers’ embrace of clean labels grows and proves attractive to investors eager to cash in. 

Dive Insight:

FFP’s acquisition of Comax demonstrates the growing role of private equity in driving consolidation within the ingredients space.

In September, private investment firm Ardian acquired a majority stake in FFP from MidOcean Partners in a deal valued at $1 billion. MidOcean had bought FFP from Kainos Capital in 2018 for an undisclosed amount. Up until that point, Florida-based FFP had been privately owned by the Brown family since its founding in 1954.    

When Ardian acquired FFP, one of its main goals was to increase investment in R&D and ramp up strategic acquisitions. The purchase of Comax likely represents the first of many deals to roll out in the coming years, as FFP aims to become what CEO Jim Holdrieth described as “the industry’s largest independent provider of natural ingredients.”  

Comax has nearly 1,000 SKUs formulated to replace synthetic flavors and ingredients designed to improve texture and extend shelf life. The company has been busy expanding its global footprint in recent years, opening an Innovation Center and Flavor Manufacturing Facility in China in 2018, as well as its 3,600-square-foot R&D facility in New Jersey. 

“We are excited to partner with the FFP, Ardian, and MidOcean teams, who share our belief that natural ingredients provide consumers with healthier options while offering our customers high-quality alternatives to traditional, synthetic ingredients,” Comax CEO Peter Calabretta Jr. said in a statement. “This partnership gives Comax access to new technologies, ingredients, and distribution that will accelerate the existing Comax business and provide more solutions and capabilities for our valued customers.”

FFP will provide “a more robust infrastructure” to Comax, according to an FAQ brief provided by the company. Their combined manufacturing capabilities will include extraction, fermentation, wet and dry blending, drying and formulation. The Floridian company has been busy adding to its own line of clean label alternatives. It recently introduced VegStablePlus, a natural phosphate alternative for meat, and a line of fermented vegetable juices for flavor and taste enhancement in plant-based foods and other applications.

The burgeoning trend toward clean label has driven several M&A deals over the past year, including Kerry’s $1 billion purchase of preservatives specialist Niacet, Ingredion’s acquisition of texture and stabilization provider KaTech in April, and Kemin’s purchase of Proteus, a protein ingredients provider.

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