Beatrice Foods Co.
Beatrice Foods Co.
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Beautifully engraved antique specimen stock certificate from the Beatrice Foods Co. dating back to the 1960's. This document, which features the printed signatures of the company President and Secretary, was printed by the Security-Columbian Bank Note Company and measures approximately 12" (w) by 8" (h).
The vignette features a female figure, cornucopia and a pair of farming scenes.
The Beatrice Creamery Company was founded in 1894 by George Everett Haskell and William W. Bosworth, by leasing the factory of a bankrupt firm of the same name located in Beatrice, Nebraska. At the time, they purchased butter, milk, and eggs from local farmers and graded them for resale. They promptly began separating the butter themselves at their plant, making their own butter on site and packaging and distributing it under their own label. They devised special protective packages and distributed them to grocery stores and restaurants in their own wagons and through jobbers. To overcome the shortage of cream, the partners established skimming stations to which farmers delivered their milk to have the cream, used to make butter, separated from the milk. This led to the introduction of their unique credit program of providing farmers with cream separators so they could separate the milk on the farm and retain the skim milk for animal food. This enabled farmers to pay for the separators from the proceeds of their sales of cream. The program worked so well, the company sold more than 50,000 separators in Nebraska from 1895 to 1905. On March 1, 1905, the company was incorporated as the Beatrice Creamery Company of Iowa, with capital of $3,000,000. By the early 20th century, they were shipping dairy products across the United States, and by 1910 they operated nine creameries and three ice cream plants across the Great Plains.
The company moved to Chicago in 1913, the center of the American food processing industry. By the 1930s, it was a major dairy company, producing some 30 million gallons of milk and 10 million gallons of ice cream annually. In 1939, Beatrice Creamery Company purchased Blue Valley Creamery Company, the other Chicago-based dairy centralizer. This acquisition added at least 11 creameries from New York to South Dakota. Beatrice's 'Meadow Gold' brand was a household name in much of America by the beginning of World War II. In 1946, it changed its name to Beatrice Foods Co. Their sales doubled between 1945 and 1955, as the post-war baby boom created greater demand for milk products.
Major Expansion Years
From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, the company expanded into Canada and purchased a number of other food firms, leveraging its distribution network to profit from a more diverse array of food and consumer products. It came to be the owner of brands such as Avis Car Rental, Playtex, Shedd's, Tropicana, John Sexton & Co, Good & Plenty, and many others. Annual sales in 1984 were roughly $12 billion.
Beatrice's Canadian subsidiary, Beatrice Foods Canada, was founded in 1969 and became legally separate from its parent firm in 1978.
In 1968, Sexton Foods was approached by Beatrice with an offer to purchase the John Sexton & Co. Beatrice was attracted to Sexton Quality Foods' distribution network, quality, variety of private-label products, specialized food offerings, sales force and profitability. Mack Sexton's initial response was no, but Beatrice Foods was very interested. Eventually both parties reached an agreement. Beatrice Foods increased the purchase price, pledged capital to expand Sexton Quality Foods' distribution network, pledged capital to introduce a new Sexton frozen product line, and pledged that the Sexton leadership would continue to lead and operate the company as a separate entity. On December 20, 1968, Beatrice acquired the business and assets of John Sexton & Co., exchanging about 375,000 shares of Beatrice's preferred convertible preference stock valued at $37,500,000. John Sexton & Co. became an independent division of Beatrice Foods, still led by Mack Sexton (son of Franklin), William Egan (son of Helen), and William Sexton (son of Sherman). Mack became a vice president of Beatrice and a Beatrice board member. John Sexton & Co put Beatrice Foods into the wholesale grocery business and Beatrice put John Sexton & Co. into the frozen foods business. Beatrice's and the Sexton's leadership were interested in maximizing the investment in John Sexton & Co. by growing the company.
Wallace Rasmussen was CEO of Beatrice Foods from 1976 until 1980, retiring after 47 years with the company. During his tenure, Beatrice added several high-value acquisitions to its portfolio, most notably Tropicana Products, Inc.
During both the 1984 Winter and Summer Olympics, the corporation flooded the TV airwaves with advertisements letting the public know that many brands with which they were familiar were actually part of Beatrice Foods. These ads used the tagline (with a jingle) "We're Beatrice. You've known us all along." After the Olympics, advertisements for its products continued to end with the catchphrase "We're Beatrice" and an instrumental version of the "You've known us all along" portion of the jingle, as the red and white "Beatrice" logo would simultaneously appear in the bottom right hand corner. The campaign was found to alienate consumers, by mispronouncing the name of the founding city, and calling attention to the fact that many of their favorite brands were part of a far-reaching multinational corporation, and the campaign was pulled off the air by autumn.
At the 87th annual Beatrice shareholders’ meeting on June 5, 1984, stockholders of record were asked to change the name of the company. "Recognizing this clear departure from the past, we are proposing a new name for the company. At our annual meeting in June, stockholders will be asked to change the name to Beatrice Companies, Inc. from Beatrice Foods Co. This change is appropriate given the company's evolution and present composition. It reflects Beatrice's wide range of separate and distinct businesses, many with operations totally unrelated to food processing, yet retains the company's goodwill and reputation for quality products and services." Annual Report, February 29, 1984.
In June 1984, Beatrice acquired Esmark. The Esmark acquisition was part of the company's strategy to focus Beatrice's assets in food and consumer products businesses. In addition to the Swift & Co. and Hunt-Wesson food brands, companies owned by Esmark included Avis Rent a Car, Playtex, Jensen Electronics, and STP. Because of Esmark's national brands, direct sales force, distribution network and research and development capabilities, its acquisition was expected to accelerate the attainment of Beatrice's marketing goals. The company also sought a higher public profile, adding their name to the end of their brands' television commercials, and sponsoring the Newman-Haas IndyCar and Haas Lola Formula One racing teams. Many analysts believe the Esmark acquisition, which was pushed by then Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President James L. Dutt, put too much of a debt load on Beatrice, which hurt Beatrice's credit rating and therefore deflated the value of Beatrice stock valuation.
In 1985, Beatrice sold their Beatrice Chemical division to Imperial Chemical Industries. Stahl Finish, Paule Chemical, Polyvinyl Chemical Industries, Converters Ink Company, and Thoro System Products were the business units that formed Beatrice Chemical. Other divisions sold to pay off the debt from the Esmark purchase included Brillion Iron Works, World Dryer, STP, and Buckingham Wine (distributors of Cutty Sark whiskey).
In 1986, Beatrice became the target of leveraged buyout specialists KKR and they ultimately purchased the firm for $8.7 billion. At the time this was the largest leveraged buyout in history — and over the next four years it was sold off, division by division.
Beatrice's Coca-Cola bottling operations (acquired by Beatrice in 1981) were acquired by The Coca-Cola Company for $1 billion in 1986. They were shortly spun off as Coca-Cola Enterprises Beatrice Bottled Water Division (acquired with the Coca-Cola operations) with brands such as Arrowhead Drinking Water, Ozarka Drinking Water, and Great Bear Drinking Water were also sold to Perrier in 1987.
In December 1986, a group of company executives, together with Drexel Burnham Lambert bought International Playtex, Inc. in a leveraged buyout and named the newly private organization Playtex Holdings. Playtex included such former Esmark brands as Max Factor, Playtex Living Gloves, Playtex Products, Almay, Jhirmack, and Halston/Orlane.
The Beatrice Dairy Products subsidiary, which included the brands of Meadow Gold, Hotel Bar Butter, Keller's Butter, Mountain High Yogurt, and Viva Milk Products, to Borden, Inc. in December 1986 for $315,000,000. Other divisions sold in 1986 included Americold and Danskin.
Brands like Samsonite, Culligan, Stiffel Lamps, del mar window coverings, Louver Drape window coverings, Aristokraft kitchen cabinets, Day-Timer planner, Waterloo Industries tool boxes, Aunt Nellies and Martha White were merged into a new entity called E-II Holdings, which was later purchased by American Brands for 1.14 billion. E-II was created in June, 1987, as an umbrella company for several non-food and specialty food businesses of Beatrice. Meshulam Riklis bought E-II from American Brands in 1988; American Brands bought back Aristokraft, Day-Timer, Waterloo, Twentieth Century and Vogel Peterson.
Tropicana Products was sold to Seagram for $1.2 billion in 1988.
All of the international operations were folded into a new entity called Beatrice International Holdings in 1987, which was later purchased that year through junk bond financing for $985 million by Reginald Lewis, a corporate attorney, creating TLC Beatrice International.
In 1987, KKR had formed a new entity, with similar intent as E-II Holdings, called Beatrice Company, which was specifically created to include Beatrice Cheese, Beatrice-Hunt/Wesson, and Swift-Eckrich. In 1990, KKR sold Beatrice Company to Conagra Brands. Most of Beatrice's brand names still exist, but under various other owners, as trademarks and product lines were sold separately to the highest bidder.
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