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并,还是不并?食品业巨头遭遇难题

John Kell 2017年03月20日

面对艰难形势,有分析人士希望食品业领头的大公司考虑兼并,提振整个行业。

美国罐头汤生产商金宝汤公司投资健康食品,反而拖累了业绩。为了改变零食经营方式,谷物与零食生产商家乐氏可能裁员上千人。食品业巨头通用磨坊的酸奶业务急剧下滑。美国最大食品企业卡夫食品零售业务拆分后的亿滋国际去年曾对巧克力制造商好时发出收购要约,最后也草草罢手。

全行业萎靡不振的背景下,今年的纽约消费者分析师集团研讨会(Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference,简称CAGNY)上,个个市值数十亿美元的美国食品与饮料生产巨无霸企业——人们口中所谓的“食品巨头”齐聚一堂,向投资者和华尔街分析师介绍2017年的发展战略。研讨会期间,各家掌门人的担忧之情溢于言表。

“如今的市场环境非常动荡,充满不确定性,我入行35年来从没见过。” 亿滋国际的首席执行官艾琳·罗森菲尔德如是说。通用磨坊的首席执行官肯·鲍威尔坦言:“食品业销售疲软已成趋势,而且竞争压力增加,提升业绩有心无力,说到底我们的工作是拿出成绩,但今年真的拿不出手。”金宝汤首席执行官还表示国际形势风云诡谲,英国退欧和美国大选结果都让人大跌眼镜,企业“很难站稳脚跟。”

许多传统品牌在成熟市场的销售业绩停滞不前,消费者又越发青睐健康食品,食品业巨头增长前景不容乐观。一些聪明的初创公司又在努力争夺市场,争夺商场超市的货架,也在争夺客户的心,一边还从风险投资人手里融到数十亿美元。通用磨坊、金宝汤和家乐氏都成立了自己的风投机构,想蹭上食品创业热潮。可大部分的投资都只是小打小闹,没有一笔投资真正拉动销售。

所以华尔街非常期待食品业来一次更大的交易,而不是不痛不痒的锦上添花。亿滋国际曾试图收购好时,合并两大超级零食企业,但好时并不太欢迎。上上周卡夫亨氏提出收购联合利华,资本市场又激动了一把,可在联合利华拒绝后不久就宣布撤回了1430亿美元收购要约。一些华尔街观察人士认为,得到巴西私募股权公司3G资本支持的卡夫亨氏可能卷土重来,发起收购联合利华旗下食品与饮料业务,也有可能将收购的目标转向另外一家食品巨头。生产奥利奥和全麦饼干Triscuit的亿滋国际常常被视为首选收购对象,该司曾是卡夫食品的一部分,于2012年独立。(拆分后卡夫与亨氏合并。)

华尔街希望今年并未出席CAGNY的卡夫亨氏举起收购大旗。国际信用评级机构穆迪投资者服务公司指出,虽然通用磨坊、亿滋国际等巨头都在削减成本,但卡夫亨氏在削减成本方面“最为激进”,其截至2017年末两年内降低成本15亿美元的计划已经完成约三分之二,该司希望共实现节余30亿美元。

即使不考虑卡夫亨氏,其他食品巨头合并降费的潮流也势不可挡。有分析人士认为,啤酒业龙头百威英博啤酒集团可能盯上碳酸饮料巨头百事可乐和可口可乐。百威英博背后也有巴西3G资本支持,去年收购了英国同行SABMiller。事实上,百事可乐与可口可乐在美国市场均表现不俗,百事的健康食品创新收效明显,可口可乐涉足牛奶和高端饮用水也小有斩获。

另一些食品巨头则是设法完善产品销售宣传活动。在CAGNY会议期间,今年预期销售额约下滑4%的通用磨坊列举了推动销售恢复增长的三大行动:1)提高谷物销量;2)美国市场的酸奶业务和中国市场业绩恢复增长;3)投资哈根达斯、Old El Paso、Annie's和Larabar等食品品牌。家乐氏则宣布,旗下品客、Pop-Tarts和Cheez-It三个品牌销量增长,但也承认Raisin Bran、Mini-Wheats和Special K等六大谷物品牌近些年增长乏力。

亿滋国际严重依赖吉百利、纳贝斯克和Wheat Thins等零食品牌,所以消费者对零食态度转变后遭受的打击最严重。罗森菲尔德承认,消费者偏好转向了所谓的“健康趋势”,公司要积极应对。她解释道:“简单来说,全球消费者都更关注个人健康,对食品也更挑剔。”为积极参与健康零食竞争,亿滋国际利用CAGNY平台正式宣布推出Vea。新品牌主打健康路线,包括零食棒和薄脆饼干等。

食品巨头转型并不容易,金宝汤就历经坎坷。由于新鲜胡萝卜加工饮品,Bolthouse Farms冷藏饮料以及Garden Fresh Gourmet均需求疲软,该司最近宣布“生鲜”业务销售下滑。金宝汤哪些业务有增长?数来数去还是传统那些:汤品、Goldfish品牌的薄脆饼干和Pepperidge Farm品牌的曲奇。(财富中文网)

作者:John Kell

译者:夏林

Campbell Soup's bet on healthy foods is proving to be a drag. Kellogg may trim hundreds of jobs as it changes how the company delivers snacks. Yogurt sales are tumbling at General Mills. And Mondelez dropped a short-lived bid for chocolate giant Hershey.

It is amid this tumultuous backdrop that some of the nation's largest, multi-billion dollar food and beverage makers—an industry collectively known as Big Food—met to present their 2017 strategies to investors and Wall Street analysts at the critical Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference (known as CAGNY). And executives couldn’t hide their concerns.

"Today's environment is one of the most volatile and uncertain that I've seen in my 35 years in the industry," said Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld. General Mills CEO Ken Powell said that while "weakening food industry sales trends and heightened competitive pressures have not helped us, at the end of the day, it is our job to deliver results and this year we haven't gotten that job done." And Campbell Soup (cpb) CEO Denise Morrison called out the unpredictability of the Brexit and U.S. presidential votes, saying it is "difficult to get your footing in the present."

Big Food makers have faced tough growth prospects with many legacy brands reporting stalled sales growth in mature markets and consumers tilting toward healthier fare. Savvy startups are winning market share, shelf space, and consumer's hearts—and they've also raised billions from venture capital investors. General Mills, Campbell Soup, and Kellogg (k) have all opened their own VC shops to participate in the startup foodie trend—though most of those investments have been tiny and haven't resulted in any meaningful sales jolts.

That explains why some on Wall Street are hopeful for a bigger deal than a bolt-on acquisition. Mondelez tried to buy Hershey to unite two snacking giants, but the chocolate maker wasn't too sweet on a possible takeover. Kraft Heinz (khc) made big waves when it tried to buy Unilever last week but walked away from the $143 billion deal quickly after a rejection. Some Wall Street observers think that 3G-backed Kraft Heinz might return to buy the food/beverage part of Unilever, or possibly move on to acquire another Big Food maker. Oreo and Triscuit maker Mondelez is often viewed as a top target, as it had been part of Kraft before a separation in 2012. (Kraft later merged with Heinz).

There's a reason why Wall Street wants Kraft Heinz—which didn't speak at CAGNY this year—to be an acquirer. Though General Mills, Mondelez and others are all cutting costs, Kraft Heinz has been "the most aggressive cost-cutter," according to Moody's Investors Service, and is already about two-thirds of the way through a two-year program to carve out $1.5 billion of costs through 2017, for a total of $3 billion in savings.

Even without factoring in Kraft Heinz, there's nothing that would stop the others from merging to bulk up and trim expenses. And some have speculated soda giants PepsiCo (pep) or Coca-Cola (ko) could be a target for mega brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (bud), which is also backed by Brazilian private-equity firm 3G and last year acquired SABMiller. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are actually performing well in the U.S., as the former's healthy food innovation is paying off while the latter's move into milk and expensive waters has been prudent.

Others are still trying to perfect their sales pitches. At CAGNY, General Mills—which is projecting a roughly 4% sales drop this year—outlined priorities to return to sales growth: 1) increase cereal sales, 2) return U.S. yogurt and China businesses to growth, 3) invest behind brands like Häagen-Dazs, Old El Paso, Annie's, and Larabar. Kellogg, meanwhile, touted some wins for Pringles, Pop-Tarts and Cheez-It but also admitted it has earned scant sales growth from the company's basket of "Big 6" cereal brands, which includes Raisin Bran, Mini-Wheats, and Special K in recent years.

Mondelez is perhaps the most exposed to indulgent snack trends as it relies heavily on brands like Cadbury, Nasbisco and Wheat Thins. But Rosenfeld admitted that the biggest shift in consumer spending that the snacking giant must confront is what she called the "well-being trend." "Simply put, people everywhere have become more attentive to their health and food choices," said Rosenfeld. To try to compete, Monelez used CAGNY as the platform to officially announce the launch of Vea—a snack bar and cracker brand it will pitch as healthier to consumers.

It isn't always easy for these Big Food manufacturers to undergo a makeover. Take the example of Campbell Soup. The company's "fresh" division has posted sales declines of late due to weakness for fresh carrots, Bolthouse Farms refrigerated beverages, and Garden Fresh Gourmet. What's been growing for Campbell? The old bread and butter: soups, Goldfish crackers, and Pepperidge Farm cookies.


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