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Capital investment firm is fourth partner in organic grower

San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm has added a fourth partner to the business: Dallas-based HM Capital Partners LLC. The terms of the July transaction were not released.

HM Capital is a private equity firm that specializes in food, energy and media. The firm has invested more than $745 million in the food sector and has invested in more than 30 companies producing shelf-stable, perishable, refrigerated and frozen products over the last 20 years. According to the company’s Web site, HM Capital invests in businesses or brands that are undermanaged or mismanaged, have opportunities to cut costs, or have growth opportunities that are “under-appreciated by others and can be readily executed and accelerated through the firm's knowledge of the marketplace and relationship with potential customers.”

The other partners in Earthbound Farm will continue to play key roles in the business and still control significant shares of the company. Tanimura & Antle and Mission Ranches are the organic suppliers to Earthbound Farm products, and company founders Drew and Myra Goodman will continue to guide the company, according to a statement from Earthbound Farm.

Charles Sweat, the current president of Earthbound Farm, will also take over as chief executive officer.

“We are extremely excited to partner with HM Capital through this transaction. HM Capital has extensive experience in the food sector and is supportive of Earthbound Farm’s mission and values. We believe their investment will extend Earthbound Farm’s ability to provide healthy and affordable organic products to consumers across the country,” Sweat said.

HM Capital is joining with Earthbound Farm because consumer demand is high for organic, sustainable products. To continue to grow the business, the investment firm will likely purchase other organic companies to capitalize on the Earthbound Farm investment, said Andrew Rosen, HM Capital partner.

“We are excited to join the Earthbound Farm family at a time when consumer interest in affordable, accessible, healthy organic food that is produced with environmentally friendly practices is more widespread than ever,” Rosen said. “We see tremendous opportunities for Earthbound Farm to leverage its brand, organic acre base and farming expertise to introduce additional organic products. Moreover, we will seek to acquire other organic food companies that can benefit from Earthbound Farm’s extensive customer relationships and loyal consumer following. We are committed to preserving the values that have helped Earthbound Farm to earn such a good reputation and committed following.”

The announcement of the business transaction came just before the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Conference and Expo in Monterey, Calif., where Earthbound Farm debuted its latest fresh-cut product – Heirloom Lettuce Leaves. The whole leaves can be used for organic salads or in sandwiches or wraps, according to Earthbound Farm.

The heirloom lettuces are washed and cut and hand-packed into a clear clamshell package. The clamshell is re-sealable and made from 100 percent recycled material, which the company says has 20 percent of the impact of new plastic.

The heirloom leaves are available for retail and foodservice customers and the 2-pound container serves about 11. The shelf life is about 16 days and the package comes labeled with temperature requirements and has a UPC code for store sales.

Originally posted Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2009

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