SunOpta, a food company with an extensive Minnesota presence, said Friday it will buy a fruit processor for $450 million.
SunOpta is buying Sunrise Growers from an investment group led by Paine & Partners. SunOpta, while based in Toronto, has administrative offices in Edina and several hundred employees in the state. Its CEO will soon move here, too.
SunOpta does about $1 billion in annual sales, specializing in organic and non-GMO food ingredients, including fruit. Sunrise Holdings, which has about $300 million in annual revenue, is a leading supplier of conventional and organic frozen fruit and fruit ingredients.
SunOpta said that California-based Sunrise complements its existing fruit business, and will make it a global leader in frozen fruit.
"The acquisition of Sunrise Growers is transformative for our company as it significantly expands our scale in the private label frozen fruit category and aligns well with consumer demands for healthy, convenient and minimally processed foods," Rik Jacobs, SunOpta president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.
SunOpta supplies packaged food companies with everything from organic corn to sunflower seeds, and makes finished products — soy milk and orange juice — for major food retailers. About 40 percent of SunOpta's workforce — 550 employees — is in Minnesota, where it has several plants, particularly in Alexandria.
SunOpta is a leader in the non-GMO aseptic beverage market. The Sunrise deal "gives them a leadership position in another category, non-GMO frozen fruit," said Eric Gottlieb, a stock analyst at D.A. Davidson. "I think it's a very good deal."
SunOpta started with soybean and soy milk operations in Minnesota, and has built up over the years by several small acquisitions. Buying Sunrise Growers, though, would constitute a major deal. "It kind of uses up a lot of [SunOpta's] firepower in the near term," Gottlieb said.
Its shares closed at $10.70 Friday, up 39 cents, or 3.8 percent.