Beatrice Foods

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Beatrice Foods Company
Fate Acquired by ConAgra Foods
Founded 1894
Defunct 1990 in US
Headquarters Irvine, California
Downers Grove, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
Products Food, Chemical, Consumer Products

Beatrice Foods Company was a major American food processing company.[1] In 1987, its smaller international food operations were sold to Reginald Lewis, a corporate attorney, creating TLC Beatrice International, after which the majority of its domestic (U.S.) brands and assets were acquired by Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts (KKR), with the bulk of its holdings sold off. By 1990, the remaining operations were ultimately acquired by ConAgra Foods.


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 appointed 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 hand cream-separators so they could separate the milk on the farm and retain the skim milk for animal feeding. 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 start of the 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, at the time the center of the American food processing industry. By the 1930s, it was a major dairy company, producing some 30 million US gallons (110,000,000 l) of milk and 10 million US gallons (38,000,000 l) 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. and doubled its sales between 1945 and 1955 as the post-war baby boom created vastly greater demand for milk products.

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 Rent A Car, Playtex, Shedd's, Tropicana, John Sexton & Co, Good & Plenty, and many others. Annual sales in 1984 were roughly $12 billion. During both the Winter and Summer Olympics that year, 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. However, the campaign was soon found to alienate consumers, calling attention to the fact that many of their favorite brands were in fact part of a far-reaching multinational corporation, and the campaign was pulled off the air by autumn.

Beatrice's Canadian subsidiary, Beatrice Foods Canada Ltd., 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. would become an independent division of Beatrice Foods, but 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.[2] Beatrice's and the Sexton's leadership were interested in maximizing the investment in John Sexton & Co. by growing the company.

Through the 1980s, Beatrice was a co-defendant alongside W. R. Grace and Company in a lawsuit alleging that the Riley Tannery, a division of Beatrice Foods, had dumped toxic waste which contaminated an underground aquifer that supplied drinking water to East Woburn, Massachusetts. The case became the subject of the popular book and film A Civil Action. Federal judge Walter Jay Skinner ruled that Beatrice was not responsible for the contamination, although according to the book and film, based on new evidence brought forward by the EPA later found, Judge Skinner reversed his verdict and found both companies responsible.

In the 1980s, the firm operated in South Africa during apartheid.[3] As a private company, the campaign of divestment could not lower its stock price and thus had no impact on its business activities.[3]

At the 87th annual meeting of Beatrice stockholders 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, Inc. Esmark. The Esmark acquisition was part of the company's strategy to focus Beatrice's assets in food and consumer products businesses. 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. Many analysts believe this 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 1986, Beatrice became the target of leveraged buyout specialists Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. They ultimately took over the firm for US$8.7 billion — at the time the largest leveraged buyout in history — and over the next four years sold it off, division by division.

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 brands as Max Factor, Playtex Living Gloves, Playtex Products, Almay, Jhirmack, Danskin, and Halston/Orlane.

When KKR came on board, they sold the Beatrice Dairy Products, Inc., 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 million.

In 1986, investment firm Wesray Capital Corporation, acquires Avis Rent a Car System for $263 million plus the assumption of debt.

In 1986, Beatrice's Coca-Cola bottling operations were acquired by Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. for $1 billion.

Beatrice Bottled Water Division with brands such as Arrowhead Drinking Water, Ozarka Drinking Water, and Great Bear Drinking Water were also sold to Perrier in 1987.

Brands like Samsonite, Culligan, Stiffel Lamps, del mar window coverings, Louver Drape window coverings, Aristokraft kitchen cabinets, Day-Timers, 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 businesses of Beatrice.

Tropicana Products, Inc. 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. TLC Beatrice International became the largest business in America run by an African American and the first company to reach a billion dollars in sales, with a black man at its head. TLC Beatrice sold the Canadian operations; Beatrice Foods Canada, Ltd., in 1990 to Onyx and then Beatrice Foods, Inc. later ended up in the hands of Parmalat in 1997.

In 1987, KKR had formed a new entity called Beatrice Company, which was not the same entity as Beatrice Companies, Inc. or Beatrice Foods Co., and was specifically created to include Beatrice Cheese, Inc., Beatrice-Hunt/Wesson, Inc., and Swift-Eckrich, Inc.. In 1990, KKR sold Beatrice Company to CAGSUB, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of ConAgra Foods. 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.

The original Beatrice Companies, Inc. (Beatrice Foods Co. before 1984, and Beatrice Creamery Company before 1946); went dormant in the late 1980s, but was revived in 2007, and has its roots going back to 1924. The Beatrice of today goes by its 1984 name of Beatrice Companies, Inc., which was approved by the 1984 stockholder meeting.

Former Beatrice brands[edit]

  • Absopure distilled and spring water
  • Acryon leisure and household products
  • A.H.Schwab children's play products
  • Airstream
  • Allison leisure apparel
  • All-Pro leisure apparel
  • Altoids
  • American Hostess ice cream
  • American Pickles
  • Antoine's food products
  • Aqua Queen garden equipment
  • Argosy recreational vehicles
  • Arist O' Kraft cabinets
  • Armitage Realty Co.
  • Arrowhead Water
  • Assumption Abbey wine products
  • Aunt Nellie's food products
  • Avan recreational vehicles
  • Avis
  • Banner painting equipment
  • Barbara Dee cookies
  • Barcrest beverage mixes
  • Beatreme dairy products and flavorings
  • Beatrice dairy products
  • Becky Kay's cookies
  • Beefbreak meat specialties
  • Beeforcan meat specialties
  • Beneke bathroom accessories
  • Best Jet painting equipment
  • Bickford food products
  • Bighorn specialty meats
  • Big Pete specialty meats
  • Bireley's orange drink (Asahi Soft Drinks)
  • Blue Ribbon condiments
  • Blue Valley Creamery Company
  • Body Shaper plumbing supplies
  • Bogene closet accessories
  • Boizet specialty food products
  • Bonanza mini-motorhomes
  • Bosman barbecue equipment
  • Bowers candies
  • Bredan butter
  • Brenner candy
  • Brookside wine products
  • Brown Miller condiments
  • Bubble Stream plumbing equipment
  • Burny Bakers food products
  • Butterball
  • Butterchef Bakery
  • Buttercrust baked goods
  • Buxton leather accessories
  • Byrons barbecue
  • California Products beverage mixes
  • Campus Casuals sport clothing
  • Captain Kids food products
  • Cartwheels travel bags
  • CCA Furniture accessories
  • Chapelcord school and religious apparel
  • Charmglow barbecue grills and outdoor products
  • Checkers beverages
  • Chicago red wine products
  • Chicago specialty plumbing tools and supplies
  • Churngold condiments
  • Cincinnati Fruit condiments and fountain syrups
  • Citro Crest beverage mixes
  • Clark candy
  • Classic travel bags
  • Classy Crisps
  • Cook n' Cajun barbecue equipment
  • Costello's food products
  • Country Hearth baked goods
  • County Line cheeses
  • Cow Boy Jo's meat specialties
  • Culligan
  • C.W. pickles
  • Dannon yogurt
  • Eckrich
  • Gebhardt Mexican foods
  • Good & Plenty
  • Hunt's[4]
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Kobey's
  • Krispy Kreme
  • La Choy
  • Little Brownie cookies
  • Ma Brown jams, jellies, pickles
  • Mario olives
  • Martha White
  • Meadow Gold
  • Milk Duds
  • Morgan Yacht Company
  • Now and Later
  • Orville Redenbacher's
  • The Ozarka Spring Water Company
  • Peter Pan
  • Pik-Nik
  • Playtex
  • Rosarita
  • Rusty Jones
  • Samsonite
  • Sexton Foods
  • Shedd's
  • Soup Starter
  • Stiffel Lamps
  • Swift Ice Cream
  • Swiss Miss
  • Switzer licorice
  • Termicold
  • Tropicana
  • Wesson
  • World Dryer hand dryers

Beatrice Foods Canada Limited[edit]

Beatrice Foods Canada Ltd. is a Toronto, Ontario-based dairy unit of Parmalat Canada. The Canadian unit of Beatrice Foods was founded in 1969, and was separated from Beatrice Foods in 1978.

Consequently, Beatrice's Canadian unit was not affected by the buyout of its founders and remained in business as one of Canada's largest food processing concerns.

In 1997 Beatrice Foods Canada was acquired by Parmalat. At first, Parmalat decided to drop the Beatrice name from the company's products, but was reinstated in late 2005 during which the Italian parent company was being investigated.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gazel, Neil R. 1990. Beatrice: From Buildup through Breakup. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 235 pages.
  2. ^ Beatrice: From Buildup to Breakup, Gazel, Neil, University of Illinois Press, 1990, ISBN 0252017293, ISBN 9780252017292.
  3. ^ a b Kaempfer, William H.; Lehman, James A.; Lowenberg, Anton D. (Summer 1987). "Divestment, Investment Sanctions, and Disinvestment: An Evaluation of Anti-Apartheid Policy Instruments". International Organization 41 (3): 462. Retrieved 29 July 2015 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)). 
  4. ^ Ruiz, Vicki I. "Cannery Women, Cannery Lives". University of New Mexico Press, 1987, pp. 82–83.

External links[edit]