Specialist growth equity firm Sonoma Brands has acquired the artisanal jerky brand KRAVE back from The Hershey Company for an undisclosed sum. The US chocolate maker previously purchased KRAVE for $218.7 million in 2015. Serial CPG entrepreneur Jon Sebastiani, who is also the founder and creative force behind KRAVE, ran the acquisition deal with his Sanoma team instead of hiring external advisors.
The deal came shortly after Hershey’s CEO Michele Buck announced in a recent earnings call that the Reese’s owner was working to divest KRAVE, alongside two artisan chocolate brands Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, to better prioritize resources against assets that fit its business model.
KRAVE rose to an immediate cult-following from its inception in 2009 by leading the jerky renaissance and elevating the gas station snack with a culinary twist, resulting in the brand’s acquisition by The Hershey Company in 2015.
KRAVE has continued to stand out in the protein category with innovative products and flavors. The diverse portfolio of protein snacks currently features a roster of KRAVE Meat Cuts, KRAVE Pork Rinds and KRAVE Plant-Based Jerky, the brand’s most recent launch. With KRAVE’s homecoming, back under Sebastiani’s guidance, innovation for the brand is expected to be further catapulted.
Sebastiani expects KRAVE to thrive under Sonoma to eventually become the undisrupted leader in the increasingly consolidated premium meat snacking category, as it grows three times faster in the US than regular jerky.
In January, KRAVE also launched a plant-based jerky made with peas and fava beans to capitalize on the growing meat alternatives sector, which is estimated to reach $3.5 billion in revenues by 2026, according to Markets And Markets’ data.
Sonoma has so far incubated and invested in several high-growth consumer companies, including Smashmallow, Peckish, Dang Foods, Hu Chocolate, and Beepkeeper’s Naturals, whose immunity-boosting products are experiencing a sales spike due to COVID-19.
The private equity investor has also made strategic investments to-date in high-growth consumer brands including Christina Tosi’s acclaimed Milk Bar, Hum Nutrition vitamins and supplements, Beekeeper’s Naturals health solutions, Hu Products plant-based chocolate, Guayaki yerba mate, Versed cruelty-free skincare, True Botanicals non-toxic personal care and more.
“I have always had a great relationship with The Hershey Company and watched them grow KRAVE,” Sebastiani said. “From expanding KRAVE’s product offerings to dipping into the plant-based category and increasing worldwide distribution, KRAVE is in a great spot to come back home to Sonoma where we can continue the brand’s fantastic momentum as a category leader.”