On March 5, 2018, the United States Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) filed an administrative complaint alleging that J.M. Smucker Co.’s (“Smucker”) proposed $285 million acquisition of Conagra Brands, Inc.’s (“Conagra”) Wesson cooking oil brand may substantially lessen competition and reduce competition for canola and vegetable oils in the United States.
Smucker currently owns the Crisco brand, and by acquiring the Wesson brand, it would control at least 70% of the market for branded canola and vegetable oils sold to grocery stores and other retailers. Smucker and Conagra both manufacture and sell a wide range of food products, including canola and vegetable oil, other types of oils, and shortening. The FTC also claims that other branded canola and vegetable oils available in the United States, such as Mazola and LouAna, each control only a small share of the market, and do not hold the same brand equity. Furthermore, building sufficient brand equity to expand would require substantial investment and take at least several years.
Under the proposed acquisition, Smucker would obtain all intellectual property rights to the Wesson brand, as well as inventory and manufacturing equipment.