A Battle Creek food and beverage consulting firm has acquired a research and development team in Brooklyn that it hopes will expand its East Coast foothold and bring new ideas to Michigan.
Jeff Grogg, managing partner at Battle Creek-based JPG Resources, earlier this month signed a deal to acquire the five-person R&D division of Boston-based food and beverage sales agency Rodeo CPG from its founder and CEO Zachary DeAngelo, according to a press release.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The R&D team, which consists of four product developers and a marketing strategist, has a lab and office in Brooklyn, New York, that JPG Resources will assume the lease on and continue to operate with the existing team in place, led by its Chief Innovation Officer Robin Puskas, Grogg told Crain’s.
DeAngelo said in the release he wanted to spin off Rodeo’s R&D division to focus on building a tech-enabled sales management platform for the industry. He was not immediately available for an interview.
“Throughout our time building brands and helping fellow entrepreneurs do the same, we have always wanted to improve the process of selling into retail by leveraging technology,” he said in the release. “This next chapter will take us to new heights.”
A friend of DeAngelo’s for years before this, Grogg said the acquisition was a logical move for JPG Resources, which helps commercialize food and beverage startups and develop and launch products for established companies worth billions of dollars from its lab and headquarters in Battle Creek. It also has a satellite office in Chicago.
Grogg worked for large brands such as King Arthur Baking Company and Kashi before founding Battle Creek-based contract manufacturer SnackWerks in 2016, where he still serves as president. He founded JPG in 2009 to share his industry knowledge with other companies, and it’s now got a team of 65 food veterans who have helped launch or grow 150 brands.
He said this acquisition gives JPG access to Rodeo's existing East Coast client base, which will bring its current client portfolio up to 120 brands.
JPG has nondisclosure agreements in place with most of its clients, but Grogg said his team has worked with Caulipower, Van’s and Health Warrior. The company website also lists Kellogg’s, Nestle and KraftHeinz as clients. Grogg did not disclose any of Rodeo’s clients but said the R&D team tends to focus on the culinary space rather than consumer packaged goods.
Grogg said the acquisition also will help JPG Resources reestablish its foothold in the New York food and beverage innovation scene after the WeWork Food Labs program in which JPG had participated since 2020 shut down last June.
“We were in the WeWork Food Labs, and that was kind of the hub of the food industry in New York, or it was becoming that, and then when COVID hit, and WeWork fell apart, we still had an office, but there wasn’t any kind of activity there. So, reestablishing a physical site for us in the city, as well as taking on a team to grow with, both of those make sense to us.”
Although the acquisition of this R&D team will not have immediate impacts on JPG’s Battle Creek-area clients, Grogg said it will connect JPG’s Michigan product development activities to “the most diverse food scene in the country,” which usually is a few years ahead of the Midwest in terms of food innovation.
“If you want to have inspiration about what the next wave of foods is going to look like, and what the next food trends are going to be — how people are going to eat in Michigan in a few years — you’re going to look to Brooklyn, and to Queens,” he said. “… We see utilizing this office to amplify what we can do in inspiration and creativity. They’re really digging deeper into why companies create the foods they create, and not just the actual act of doing the creation.
“Part of why we are compelled by this acquisition is it gives us an anchor point in one of the most progressive food chains in the world.”
JPG’s move to bring East Coast ideas to Michigan comes as the firm is also helping to launch the Future Food Accelerator in Battle Creek in partnership with Battle Creek Unlimited and other groups.
“We’re excited about it. It’s a lot of work and a long time coming to reestablish Battle Creek as not just the Cereal City, but a place where food innovation happens. … The vision is to reestablish not being centered so much on companies that are 100-plus-years-old, but being centered on developing ... what could be the next Kellogg (and) Post type of companies.”
Battle Creek Unlimited is currently working to hire three individuals to staff the accelerator and plans to launch the initiative within the next three months.
From Crain’s Detroit Business.
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