Shy, you ask? Nut a bit. Diamond Foods has come out of its shell. While the company still sells plenty of walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and other varieties of nuts, primarily under the Diamond and Emerald brands, snacks are a growing part of its business. Diamond Foods sells microwave popcorn under the Pop Secret brand and Kettle brand potato chips. The snack food maker sells its products to food retailers: Wal-Mart and Costco combined account for about 25% of sales. Non-retail nut customers include food processors, restaurants, bakeries and food service operators. The company was founded in 1912 as Diamond Walnut Growers.
Diamond Foods pursues a strategy of increasing its market share in the snack-food sector. After buying the Pop Secret brand from General Mills in 2008, it acquired Kettle Foods in 2010.
In 2011 it agreed to buy Pringles from P&G in a $1.5 billion stock transaction that would make Diamond Foods the second-largest snack company in terms of retail sales behind PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay. The Pringles purchase, which includes the assumption of $850 million of Pringles debt, would triple Diamond's annual sales to $2.4 billion and make it a more dominant global player in snack foods. (Pringles is sold in about 140 countries.)
The closing of the Pringles sale, originally slated for the end of 2011, fell through in February 2012 due to an internal investigation into the company's payments to walnut growers. The board of Diamond Foods announced in February that it was restating its financial results for two years and had replaced its CEO and CFO.
The March 31, 2010 acquisition of Kettle has already proved profitable. Diamond's 2010 fiscal year (ended on July 31, 2010), total net sales were $680 million, compared to $571 million for fiscal 2009, an increase of 70%. The company attributed this uptick to increased snack sales, particularly the Kettle brand (which it had owned for only four months before the end of its fiscal year).
Pop Secret is the US's #2 popcorn brand behind ConAgra's Orville Redenbacher products. (ConAgra also makes the popular Act II microwaveable popcorn.) In addition to popcorn, the company's other snack foods include roasted, glazed, and mixed nuts, trail mixes, and dried fruits.
The company's products are sold in more than 60,000 US retail locations and are available in some 100 other countries. Diamond plans to expand its retail distribution outlets to include more drug, convenience, and club stores, as well as mass merchandisers.
The company owns no nut groves of its own; instead, it buys from growers. During 2010 all the walnuts, peanuts, and almonds, as well as most of its hazelnuts were sourced in the US; pecans came from the US and Mexico. It imported Brazil nuts from the Amazon basin; cashews from India, Africa, Brazil, and Southeast Asia; and pine nuts from China and Turkey. Other agricultural commodities it needs for production, such as corn and potatoes, were provided by US growers.
In addition to US markets, Diamond also does business internationally, mainly in the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea.
Investment firm FMR LLC owns about 12% of Diamond Foods' shares. – less