PadillaCRT has acquired a Chicago-based communications and consulting company to create the third-largest food and beverage business among independent marketing agencies.

PadillaCRT, a Minneapolis public relations agency, said FoodMinds LLC and its 35 employees would operate as a division of the company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. PadillaCRT said it was part of its strategic plan to increase its business in the food sector.

"I had a feeling, hopefully, that if the stars aligned that in our food strategy we might be able to combine with FoodMinds, and we were able to do that," said PadillaCRT CEO Lynn Casey.

FoodMinds, which was named "boutique agency of the year" in 2013 by national trade journal the Holmes Report, is known mostly for its strategic consulting work with clients such as Nestlé and the National Dairy Council. With nearly half of its staff registered dietitians, FoodMinds is expected to bring nutritional expertise to the table.

"We actually operate in complementary spaces, [which] is going to allow us to provide a much more complete and full-service offering in the food, nutrition and beverage space," said FoodMinds co-founder Bill Layden.

The company, founded in 2006, will continue to operate out of its offices in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

FoodMinds and PadillaCRT have already worked together, collaborating on the Hass Avocado Board account. FoodMinds helped figure out how to use science and research findings, while PadillaCRT worked on the consumer marketing end.

Looking ahead, Layden said, new rules that were recently finalized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that require more information on food labels will provide opportunities for the combined skills of the firm.

FoodMinds founders Layden, Laura Cubillos and Sue Pitman will join PadillaCRT's leadership team as executive vice presidents.

PadillaCRT also boosted its brand strategy business late last year by buying boutique agency Joe Smith.

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet