Deal Watch: Snack company swallows Beer Chips

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Articles - April 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
BY JON BELL
Britt Stern is a man of ideas.  

An industrial designer born in Yonkers, N.Y., he invented a dripless ice cream cone and a no-leak coffee lid. He wrote a book about opening beer bottles that’s sold more than 40,000 copies. He’s designed surgical tools, renovated a New York City loft in Gothic Revival style and consulted on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s costume for the movie Batman and Robin.

But perhaps his tastiest idea has been beer-flavored potato chips. During a visit to Portland and its annual Holiday Ale Festival in 2005, Stern realized not only that the idea was a good one but that Portland was the place to make it happen.

“I looked around and thought, wow, they really like beer here,” says Stern, 51.

He moved to Portland from Alfred, N.Y., where he’d been on sabbatical at Alfred University, and by summer 2006 he’d perfected his recipe for Beer Chips with help from Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center.

“Then I just hustled the way I know how to hustle,” Stern says.

He tended to the marketing and sales side of the business and outsourced production and shipping to Barrel O’ Fun Snack Foods, a co-packer in Perham, Minn., that is part of the larger food conglomerate KLN Enterprises. His first sales were to small Portland markets, but he met the right person at a tradeshow, and within three months of launching Beer Chips he was shipping to Sam’s Club. By pushing his chips into beer aisles, not the nearly impenetrable snack food aisles, Stern quickly made his way into large national grocery chains.

First-year gross revenue hit $500,000, and the past two years it’s topped $1 million — a volume of about 40 semi truckloads of product a year.

But there’s only so far one man can take a company — Stern worked with just a bookkeeper and a salesperson, both part-time — so he sold the business to Barrel O’ Fun for an undisclosed amount in early February.

Always thinking about his next idea, Stern says he’d like to focus less on entrepreneurship and more on product development and design.

“I’m going to try and do nothing for a bit,” he says, “but I’m not very good at doing nothing.”

 

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS
PRICE EXP. CLOSE BUYER / PARENT (HQ) SELLER / PARENT (HQ) ANNOUNCED
$615M Q2 Diamond Foods (CA) Kettle Foods/Lion Capital (London) 2/25
$578M (FDIC loss-share transaction) Q1 Umpqua Bank/Umpqua Holdings (Portland) Rainier Pacific Bank (WA) 2/27
$25M Q1 Atlas Holdings (CN) North Pacific Group assets (Tigard) 2/10
$2.8M Q1 Med-Fit Systems (CA) Fixed assets of Nautilus (Vancouver) 2/26
ND Q1 Access Information Management (CA) CDI Vaults (Eugene) 2/3
ND Q1 Barrel O' Fun Snacks (MN) Beer Chips (Portland) 2/22
ND Q1 Cardiology Consultants (Medford) Heart Clinic (Medford) 2/16
ND Q1 International Grand Investment (Hong Kong) Cascade Pacific Pulp (Halsey) 2/4
ND Q1 Lithia Motors/(Medford) Shasta Subaru (CA) 2/10
CAPITAL RAISING AND CONTRACTS
PRICE (TYPE) COMPANY (HQ) / LEADERSHIP INVESTOR (HQ) ANNOUNCED
$303M (common share offering) Umpqua Holdings (Portland)/Ray Davis Shareholders 2/2
$108M (stock purchase) Vulcan Power (Bend)/Robert Warburton Denham Capital (MA) 2/2
$38M (transfer station contract) Recology Oregon Recovery (CA)/Mike Sangiacomo Metro 2/24
$36M (common stock offering) PremierWest Bancorp (Medford)/James Ford Shareholders 2/2
$23M (streetcar funding) City of Portland U.S. Dept. of Transportation 2/17
$10M (investment) Coaxis (Portland)/Jay Haladay Updata Partners (NJ) 2/3
$1.5M (fish passage contract) Weekly Bros (Idleyld Park)/Allan Weekly ODOT 2/8
$1.1M (construction contract) Knife River Materials (Medford)/Terry Hildestad ODOT 2/19
$1.1M (venture funding) Urban Airship (Portland)/Scott Kveton True Ventures (CA), Founder's Co-Op (WA) 2/16
$1M (gift to study hops) Oregon State University/Edward Ray Indie Hops (Portland) 2/8
$490,000 (spectrometer grant) Southern Oregon University (Ashland)/Mary Cullinan National Science Foundation (VA) 2/17
REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS
PRICE BUYER / PARENT (HQ) REAL ESTATE (LOCATION) / SELLER (HQ) ANNOUNCED
$15M Oregon Board of Forestry 43,000 acres forest (Bend)/Fidelity National Timber Resources (MT) 2/10
$4M OHSU (Portland) Block 33 (Portland)/Portland Development Commission 2/24
$3.6M Murphy (Eugene) 164,000 sq. ft. plywood mill (Rogue River)/Panel Products (Milwaukie) 2/10
$2.7M Dove Street Capital Lenders (CA) four parcels at The Round (Beaverton)/Beaverton Land Parcels (Beaverton) 2/17
$1.6M Columbia Sportswear (Beaverton) 17,300 sq. ft. industrial (Portland)/Paul F. Parks Marital Trust (Portland) 2/2
$1.6M Walsh Enterprises and Holdings (Tualatin) 21,200 sq. ft. industrial (Woodburn)/Tamara and Gayle Tweed Revocable Trust (Woodburn) 2/4
$900,000 MWF Tigard (Tigard) 1.3 acres retail land (Tigard)/Tritalent Funding Group (Portland) 2/23
ND FLIR Systems (Portland) 170,000 sq. ft. commercial (CA)/Sares-Regis Group (CA) 2/4
 

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