Global Food Properties recently closed on the sale of the second of two large bakery plants in the small town of Ripon, Wisconsin. Earlier this year, Global Food Properties successfully identified a leading snacks and wafer cookie manufacturer looking for additional capacity in the Midwest. Speed-to-market was imperative to include, if possible, capturing a facility with rarely available and highly engineered Hebenstreit ovens. This unusual alignment of a single-purpose asset, with a relevant Buyer expanding in the same market, created a rare and utopian outcome for all stakeholders.
The second facility was perhaps even more challenging, as its infrastructure was as generic as the wafer plant’s was specific. With few attributes defining a food manufacturing use - much less driving an elevated value - the issue was to find a large industrial user able to operate in a facility nearly 60 years old, located 25 miles off the nearest interstate highway.
Moreover, Central Wisconsin’s “Paper Valley,” as it is known, suffered first-hand the effects of digitalization, and the fierce movement away from paper, paper products, and paper making machinery. With no captive or obvious demand, Global Food Properties was tasked with creating two distinct markets: One laser-focused on global wafer manufacturers, seeking the rare availability of the German ovens; and the other as broad-based as possible, seeking to identify regional industrial demand, employing discounted pricing as a transaction driver.
Both the 77,000 SF wafer plant and the 270,100 SF cookie facility faced market headwinds. Wafers are viewed increasingly as a processed, high-sugar food, with shrinking demand and overcapacity. Additionally, what few wafer manufacturers are profitable in this sector supply domestic markets in Western Europe, South America, and Mexico; hence, any US-based operation would create unsustainable freight penalties in getting product overseas to domestic consumers. Finally, any buyer would likely compete with the seller in its broader portfolio, creating an untenable threat of providing discounted production capacity to potential competitors.
The second facility, hulking at 270,100 SF with roots dated back to the 1950’s, created its own inventory of challenges. Though the facility presented certain advantages - a linear configuration, bulk ingredient storage, expandability, and a 95,200 SF newer addition - the size, lower ceiling heights, and heavily demised interior were challenging to manufacturers, most of whom require high ceilings to accommodate equipment and automation, and long open runs for efficient product flow.
Global Food Properties realized neither the 77,000 SF wafer facility, nor the 270,100 SF cookie plant, would generate broad demand. Rather, imperative to the effort would be to identify the single most unique aspect of each asset, and then to profile and promote that advantage to logical market.
The wafer plant had a screaming differentiator, though narrow in scope, making it a rare asset even in the distressed bakery sector: The highly-engineered German Hebenstreit paddle ovens. Leveraging this rarity, Global Food Properties canvassed global wafer manufacturers as identifiable through NAICS and SIC codes; more importantly, Global Food Properties met Hebenstreit’s U.S. technical advisor at the 2016 International Bakery Industry Exposition (“IBIE) in Las Vegas, inviting the Hebenstreit team to join the effort to identify wafer manufacturers employing like-kind ovens. Working alongside the Hebenstreit team, Global Food Properties was introduced to a growing Northeastern manufacturer seeking additional manufacturing capacity, and within a few short weeks following that introduction, a comprehensive plant inspection was scheduled, to include meeting local leaders and development officials.
The 270,100 SF cookie plant had no unique attributes which meant, by definition, a market would need to be made, to include food and non-food companies, manufacturers and distributors, and operators and speculators alike. Taking direction from local leaders and regional economic development offices, Global Food Properties identified three credible prospects, two in the food sector, and one a diversified high-net worth entrepreneur. Absent any property differentiators, Global Food Properties was able to offer sub-market pricing- based primarily on the outsized return in the earlier wafer plant sale- and use discounted pricing as a necessary transaction driver.
In sum, improbable outcomes, back-to-back: Two transactions, totaling nearly 350,000 SF of absorption, closing in a single year (2017), involving widely disparate assets, in a rural Wisconsin town. Had Global Food Properties not seized on the rarity of the Hebenstreit ovens, sought out Hebenstreit’s U.S. technical advisor in Las Vegas, and leveraged those assets for a valuation far exceeding expectations, the discounted pricing underwriting the second transaction would not have been possible. A random outcome? No. More likely, a linear progression of events, unleashed by an expertise in food facilities, and a fluency in how machinery and equipment can define use and drive value. Once again, a testament to a core belief underlying Global Food Properties existence: Who You Choose Matters.