Hot dog! Hebrew National may be sold by Conagra Brands

Hebrew National's kosher franks were first sold in New York City in 1905

Hebrew National may soon answer to a different authority.Conagra Brands Inc. is in talks to sell the famous hot dog brand to Brazil's JBS SA, people familiar with the matter said.

A deal, which the people said could also include the Egg Beaters and Odom's Tennessee Pride brands, could be valued at around $700 million. Any agreement is likely weeks away and Conagra could end up keeping the business or selling it to someone else, the people cautioned.

Conagra in April 2019 said Hebrew National's sales over the previous year were $170 million, and Egg Beaters' were $78 million. But the kosher hot dog's popularity and cultural cache transcend the brand's size, thanks in part to its long-running slogan, "We answer to a higher authority."

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Conagra, which has a market value of around $17.6 billion, has been retooling its portfolio to boost its frozen food and snack brands such as Healthy Choice and Slim Jim.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
CAG CONAGRA BRANDS, INC. 32.67 +0.04 +0.11%

For JBS, the biggest beef processor in the U.S., buying the business would expand its reach into grocery store meat cases at a time when consumers have shifted their food-buying preferences toward supermarkets and away from sit-down restaurants.

JBS has a market value of over $12 billion and derives most of its revenue from the U.S., where its businesses include the Swift beef and pork-processing company and Pilgrim's Pride, the nation's second-largest chicken supplier.

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Should JBS clinch the deal, it would expand its portfolio of consumer brands, which the company aims to build. Name-brand meat products tend to carry higher profits than bulk meat sold to restaurants, and to supermarkets in shrink-wrapped trays. In February 2020, JBS announced a $238 million deal to buy Empire Packing Co., parent of the Ledbetter-branded retail-meat products.

Hebrew National's kosher franks were first sold in New York City in 1905, and Conagra acquired the brand's parent company in 1993. Over the decades, the all-beef hot dogs have become a staple at baseball stadiums and backyard cookouts.

In early 2019, the brand's sales were running slightly behind the overall hot dog category and Conagra executives said they planned to update its marketing and incorporate additional beef cuts like brisket.

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Sales of pantry staples surged roughly a year ago when stay-at-home orders began in the early days of the pandemic, giving a jolt to classics that had fallen out of favor with consumers. Hebrew National's retail sales jumped 39% in the quarter ended May 31, Conagra reported.

But demand for some packaged foods has waned as people return to restaurants and offices, prompting companies to resort to deal-making to keep up with changing consumer tastes.

Kraft Heinz Co. in February agreed to sell its Planters nut business to Spam maker Hormel Foods Corp. for $3.35 billion. Like JBS, Hormel has been focusing its portfolio on protein-heavy food brands.

Kraft rival Mondelez International Inc. has signed two small deals so far this year: It agreed to buy Gourmet Food Holdings, a cracker brand popular in Australia this week and the rest of Paleo chocolate-bar maker Hu Master Holdings in January.