Case Study

Entrepreneur Owner-Manager: Founder

Vermont Creamery acquired by Land O’Lakes

Vermont Creamery, Inc. founded in 1984, is a producer of premiere fresh and aged goat cheese, crème fraiche, and cultured butter. By combining European traditions with Vermont’s terroir for over 30 years, Vermont Creamery pioneered the artisan cheese making movement in America. The Company’s specialty products have won over 100 national and international awards.

Bigelow Assignment

The specialty goat cheese market was consolidating; several leading brands have been acquired by large global cheese businesses. Vermont Creamery’s co-founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese sought Bigelow’s advice on the long-term sustained success of the Company. Over several years Bigelow helped them navigate through their personal, family, and professional objectives.  After three decades of pouring their heart and soul into their cheese making passion, Allison and Bob reached the conclusion that it was time to pass on the legacy of what they had built.  Finding an investor who shared their same values was essential.

Unique Challenges

Vermont Creamery was growing rapidly; many large customers were asking them to do more and more. The company, a B-Corp, has deep roots in the community, is passionate about growing the Vermont goat farming industry, and is committed to sustainability.  Could Bigelow find an investor who wanted to embrace the future growth plan, and bring additional resources and opportunities to the Company, and value and appreciate Vermont Creamery’s unique culture & legacy?

Naturally, like most successful privately-owned businesses, the co-founders had received overtures from strategic acquirers over the years and had preliminary conversations recently.  How would these interested parties react to further engagement and discussion?

Outcome

At the outset of the engagement, Bigelow worked with Vermont Creamery to first refine its growth story and strategize about how to best handle the on-going conversations.  The investor screening process was careful, deliberate, and included additional Bigelow suggestions. After great investor interest, Bigelow led the owners and management on a “reverse due diligence process” spanning five countries to visit new potential majority owners on their home turf.

Ultimately Bob and Allison selected Land O’Lakes, Inc., one of the largest farmer-owned co-ops in the United States, as the next majority owner of Vermont Creamery.  The two companies shared a common passion for quality products and rural farmer values.

As part of the transaction Land O’ Lakes will invest significant capital to grow capacity and enhance capabilities at Vermont Creamery. The Hooper family retained ownership of the Ayers Brook Farm (supplier of goat milk) and both founders will continue to promote and develop the Vermont goat milk shed.  Vermont Creamery’s management team and employees all remained in place, driving the next chapter of growth while leveraging the resources and expertise of Land O’Lakes.

“Thank you for shepherding us through what ought to have been a train-wreck of a process. You expertly led this Enterprise Value PEREGRINATION….your diligence, wisdom, and hand-holding assured us every step of the whey. What a splendid outcome, leading us to Life’s next magical offerings.”

Donald Hooper, Shareholder
Vermont Creamery, Inc.

“We could not have asked for a better team behind us and know in the bottom of our hearts that Land O’ Lakes will be an incredible partner and steward of Vermont Creamery going forward.  They will also make considerable investments, not only in the Company, but in the State of Vermont.”

Robert A. Reese, Co-founder
Vermont Creamery, Inc.