WORTHINGTON, Ohio -- Worthington Foods here has acquired the Harvest Burger trademark and line of products from Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., for $9.3 million in common stock.
Harvest Burger joins the company's Morningstar Farms line of 21 meat-free products. Dale Twomley, president and chief executive officer of Worthington Foods, has pledged to revive the brand. Pillsbury/Green Giant, Minneapolis, had been distributing the product under a 1993 agreement with ADM.
Annual sales of the soy-based Harvest Burger products to supermarkets are approximately $15 million.
Under the agreement with Worthington, which closed Oct. 16, ADM will provide $7 million in advertising over the next three years, Twomley said.
The Morningstar Farms logo will replace Green Giant's on the box as of Jan. 1, 1999, but the line will still be called Harvest Burger. Branded products include the original and two flavors, a frozen hamburger meat replacement (crumbles), dry patty mixes and food-service products. Twomley said extensions are being considered.
Worthington wanted Harvest Burger because its products have become well established. "It has the third-highest turns per item per store of any veggie product," Twomley said. He noted that sales were down about 4.5% over the last 52-week period. "The reason for it is that Green Giant had not been putting any marketing or trade support behind [the product] for over a year.
"We believe that by going in and giving it the good attention of our retail brokers, and even minimal advertising support, this brand can be revived," Twomley continued. According to Terry Thompson, spokesman for Pillsbury, Harvest Burger did not meet the company's expectations. "We still think the category overall has potential, and we're probably going to look at other opportunities," he told SN.
There are points of differentiation between Harvest Burger and like products from Morningstar Farms. The 4 fat grams per serving in Harvest Burgers fit between Morningstar Grillers, with 7 grams of fat per serving, and the fat-free Better'n Burgers, Twomley explained. Harvest Burgers are also larger and have a different flavor profile than Morningstar burgers.