The J. M. Smucker Co. is dropping its chase for Conagra's Wesson oil brand after the Federal Trade Commission challenged the deal.
"While we disagree with the FTC's conclusion, we have mutually determined with Conagra that it is not in the best interest of either party to expend the anticipated significant additional time and resources to challenge the FTC's administrative complaint," CEO Mark Smucker said in a statement.
The all-cash, $285 million transaction for the oil brand was announced in May 2017. Smucker Co. saw it as a complement to its Crisco brand, and the opportunity to more efficiently use the existing supply chain and go-to-market resources to save money.
The FTC, however, saw the deal as “likely ‘substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly’ in violation of the Clayton Act,” precisely because Smucker Co. owns Crisco.
Adding Wesson to its product portfolio would give the jam maker control of at least 70 percent of the market for branded canola and vegetable oils sold to grocery stores and other retailers, as well as increased negotiating leverage against retailers by absorbing its competition, according to the FTC.
Mark Smucker sees it differently. From the company’s statement: "We believe the FTC underestimated the significant role that private label brands play in the oils category, which account for approximately 50 percent of all cooking oil sales and hold significantly higher market share at some retailers."
Even as the Wesson deal was falling through, reports emerged that Smucker Co. is considering a sale of its baking brands, including Pillsbury, Robin Hood flour and cereal brand, and Martha White baking mixes. The business could fetch as much as $700 million, according to the Reuters/Bloomberg report.