By JOHN O'CONNELL
Blackfoot, Idaho-based Nonpareil Farms has signed a letter of intent to sell its dehydrated potato business to Basic American Foods, corporate officials announced Monday.
Nonpareil officials said the sale will allow their company to focus on its rapidly growing fresh potato brand.
"Due diligence is currently underway," the companies said in a press release. "Both Basic American Foods and Nonpareil Farms are working toward negotiating the various agreements involved in the transaction and anticipate the process to take eight to 10 weeks to conclude and finalize the documents for closing."
The companies did not divulge a selling price.
Nonpareil describes itself on its corporate website as one of the largest growers and shippers of fresh potatoes and a leading manufacturer of dehydrated potato pieces, potato flakes and flour. Other products include hash browns, potato casseroles and potato slices, shreds and dices.
Nonpareil prides itself in being an innovator of potato technology, developing patented potato extracts used for preserving foods and enhancing food flavors and textures.
Nonpareil got its start in 1946 as Idaho Potato Packers, a New York City distributor of fresh Idaho spuds. The company opened its first Blackfoot office in the 1950s to "better control the quality and supply of potatoes." Nonpareil opened its new corporate offices and technical center, where product development and microbiology testing takes place, in Blackfoot in 1995. The company also has production facilities in O'Neill, Neb.
In 2011, Nonpareil began packing and marketing Betty Crocker Fresh Potatoes to stores nationwide.
Basic American Foods, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., has a Blackfoot plant near Nonpareil. BAF describes itself as "the leader in dry potato and bean products." BAF was founded in 1933 and employs more than 1,500 workers worldwide. Principal BAF brands include Idaho Spuds, Santiago, Golden Grill and Potato Pearls.
Both companies have a strong track record of involvement in the Blackfoot community.
"For the Idaho Potato Museum, both companies have not just been supportive financially, but they have donated product to us and they have made sure we're able to continue to offer potatoes and potato product to visitors who come into the museum," said Tish Dahmen, director of the Idaho Potato Museum and the Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce.
Dahmen said visitors to the museum each take home an individual box of dehydrated potatoes, and potato sacks donated by the companies serve as gift bags. She said both companies also support the chamber.
Richard Johnson, a Blackfoot area produce farmer, said Nonpareil donated cooked baked potatoes for Idaho Potato Night at the corn maze he hosted on his farm last fall. Nonpareil also sponsored the maze and financed a billboard on the interstate to promote it.
"You look at all the things they've done for Blackfoot and all of the different groups and organizations. They do a great job. You couldn't ask for a better community partner," Johnson said.
Johnson has also been impressed by the ownership of BAF and expects Nonpareil's community involvement will continue under its new ownership.