Vitamin firm to stay put

Northwest Natural Products to maintain local headquarters, warehouse after $650M sale

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Vancouver-based production of Vitafusion and L'il Critters gummy vitamins will stay in the area, an official from Church & Dwight Co. Inc. said Thursday, two days after its whopping $650 million deal to acquire the vitamin company.

"We do not manufacture vitamins at any of our other plants," said Matt Farrell, chief financial officer of Princeton, N.J.-based Church & Dwight, a major U.S. manufacturer of household products. The company operates 11 manufacturing facilities, with nine spread across the country and two overseas.

As the top-selling brand of vitamins, Vitafusion for adults and L'il Critters for children were of high interest to Church & Dwight. It spent several months hammering out the deal to acquire Avid Health Inc., which operates the vitamin maker Northwest Natural Products.

"They are a key player in the vitamin category," a market segment that has experienced 5 percent to 6 percent growth annually, Farrell said.

Church & Dwight, founded in 1846, has spent the last 12 years acquiring fast-growing companies. Since 2000, it has built a high-performing portfolio with well-known household brands such as OxiClean, Close-Up toothpaste and all of the Arm & Hammer detergents and personal care products.

Farrell said nothing will change about Vitafusion and L'il Critters, products his company sought out as a growing market sector — 87 million consumers — are regularly making vitamin purchases. The gummy form of vitamins are the fastest-growing market sector.

Farrell expects the deal to buy Avid Health Inc. to close in early October. He said Northwest Natural Products employs about 800 people at its headquarters at 6350 N.E. Campus Drive in Vancouver. It also operates a 200,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Ridgefield.

He acknowledged that some job erosion could occur as the two companies come together.

"Manufacturing and shipping will be from Vancouver, Washington for the foreseeable future," Farrell said. "But there are always certain office and administrative functions that are duplicated. In most cases, those will be done out of our Princeton headquarters."

Company officials could not be reached to speak on behalf of Avid Health Inc., which operates Northwest Natural Products. The company is owned by Kate Jones, who is president, and her husband, Marty Rifkin, chief executive officer. The

husband-and-wife business partners don't plan to remain with the company, Farrell said.

At $650 million, the sale of Vancouver-based Avid Health Inc. rivals many of the largest sales of businesses in the region, said Tim Leavitt, Vancouver's mayor.

"Clearly the investors determined this is a wise business decision to invest in a company that from all indications will continue to grow in the marketplace," Leavitt said.

Church & Dwight, which generates $2.8 billion in annual sales, plans to re-evaluate plant expansion plans that were already in place for Avid Health Inc., Farrell said.