2017 has been a year of change for Red Monkey Foods Inc. Majority ownership shifted to a private equity firm, and its founder is no longer in the mix.
Jeff Brinkhoff, who started the private-label organic and gourmet spice manufacturer in 2002, currently is transitioning out of the company and making way for a new CEO – one with some serious background in the spice industry.
San Francisco Equity Partners bought a majority stake in the company in January and former McCormick & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MKC) executive Scott Bolonda has moved in from its Baltimore headquarters in June to take the top post in Republic.
The transitions are designed to continue Red Monkey’s growth, Bolonda said.
Producing private-label spices, including products under Archer Farms for Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) and Hickory House for Hy-Vee Inc., the company made the Inc. 5000 fast-growth list for four straight years, ending in 2014. Red Monkey Foods ranked 3,369th that year with 2013 revenue of $12.5 million, representing three-year revenue growth of 100 percent.
In 2014, the company invested $3.4 million to construct a new plant in Republic’s Brookline Business Park, moving 128 jobs from its original headquarters in Mount Vernon.
The company also had a five-year run in Springfield Business Journal’s Dynamic Dozen fast-growth awards. Most recently recognized in 2015, Red Monkey Foods recorded 2014 revenue of $17.5 million, representing three-year growth of 54 percent.
After Bolonda took the reins, he and the equity group quickly engineered an acquisition. In late November, they announced a deal for undisclosed terms to buy San Francisco Salt Co. from its founder Lee Williamson.
“It was a quick timeline,” said Bolonda, originally an upstate New Yorker who studied at Cornell University. “The companies are in complimentary ,adjacent categories. They’re the leader in premium food salts and Epsom salts. It’s a very high-gross business so it contributes to Red Monkey’s strong growth.”
San Francisco Salt’s product line includes culinary sea salts and other products used for health conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as relief for stress and sleep deprivation.
Bolonda’s resume includes work for Nestle USA as a territory sales and business development manager, Unilever (NYSE: UN) as a brand manager in its home and personal care division and The J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM) as a brand manager. At McCormick, he most recently was vice president and general manager for U.S. sales and marketing.
“McCormick is the global leader in flavor, so they’re the largest, and then Red Monkey – we call ourselves a middle-market company,” Bolonda said.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Bolonda managed more than 200 employees at McCormick and was responsible for the billion-dollar company’s four brands: Lawry’s, Kitchen Basics, Old Bay and McCormick.
Red Monkey Foods spokesman Jeff Fox said Brinkhoff is now an adviser to its board. He is no longer involved in day-to-day operations, Bolonda said. Brinkhoff could not be reached for comment.
Bolonda said with new employees coming on in the San Francisco Salt acquisition, Red Monkey Foods’ staff count sits at roughly 120. He declined to disclose current annual revenues.
“We look forward to bringing Red Monkey’s substantial distribution, innovation and manufacturing resources to this partnership and to rolling out premium store brand and branded salt programs with our retail partners,” Bolonda said in a news release on the merger.
Bolonda said he’s eager to lead Red Monkey’s growth, and plans to keep it up by reaching more customers in new stores and continuing to add companies like San Francisco Salt Co.
“We are only investing for growth at this point,” he said.
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