KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Foreign grain-based foods companies experienced mixed performance in 2019 to that of 2018, as 20 of the 39 companies tracked by Milling & Baking News, a sister publication of World Grain, recorded year-over-year declines in share price while 19 posted gains. By comparison, 29 companies recorded year-over-year decreases in 2018, while 23 companies recorded year-over-year increases in both 2017 and 2016, 19 posted increases in 2015, 25 companies posted increases in share price in 2014, and 32 companies posted year-over-year gains in 2013.
On the London Stock Exchange, Associated British Foods finished the year at 2598p, up 27% from 2043p in 2018 and compared with 2820p in 2017. Michael McLintock, chairman of ABF, in the company’s annual report said he was proud of the company’s ability to deliver profit growth in a year “where the effects of a radical change in the European sugar market fully impacted our businesses.” ABF in September acquired Anthony’s Goods, a California-based online marketer and blender of specialty baking ingredients. The company also signed an agreement to form a yeast and bakery ingredients joint venture in China with Wilmar International.
Carr’s Group PLC’s share price closed at 154.5p in 2019, up 2% from 150.75p in 2018 and compared with 128p in 2017. Chris Holmes, chairman of Carr’s, in the company’s annual report said Carr’s agriculture division performed well in challenging market conditions during 2019.
Tate & Lyle PLC, the global sweetener company, had a 52-week high of 800.4p in mid-May and fell to a low of 663.8p in early November, before ultimately closing at 760.2p, up 15% from 660p in 2018. Tate & Lyle in May partnered with Sweet Green Fields to launch Zolesse, a glycosylated stevia extract that may be labeled as natural flavor (per the Food and Drug Administration definition). Tate & Lyle, London, in 2017 became the exclusive global distributor of Sweet Green Fields’ portfolio of stevia-based ingredients.
Premier Foods, the U.K.’s largest food producer, finished 2019 at 37.85p, up 15% from 33p in 2018 and compared with 42.75p in 2017 and 46.75p in 2016. Premier’s stock price hit a low of 29.8p on Oct. 8 before rebounding to a high of 40.85p a little more than a month later. Alex Whitehouse was promoted from U.K. managing director to chief executive officer in late August. He succeeded Gavin Darby, who stepped down from the company in January 2019 under pressure from an activist investor.
It was again a bumpy ride for Finsbury Food Group PLC. The U.K.-based maker of cake, bread and gluten-free bakery goods plummeted to a 52-week low share price of 60p on April 3 before rebounding briefly, then falling again. By mid-September, the company’s share price began an upward climb, finishing 2019 at 99p, which was still down 3.5% from 102.5p in 2018.
Greggs PLC, an operator of retail bakery shops and cafes in the United Kingdom, finished at 2298p, up 82% from 1266p in 2018.
The three leading U.K. retail chains sustained mixed share price moves during the past year. Tesco, the leader in U.K. food retailing, closed at 255.2p, up 34% from 190.1p a year ago. Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer fell 10% to finish the year at 213.5p, and Sainsbury, PLC closed the year at 229.9p, down 13% from 265p in 2018.
In Ireland, Greencore Group PLC, a European maker of convenience food and malt products, finished at 267.9p, up 50% from 178.2p in 2018. In September, Greencore acquired Freshtime, a supplier of meal salads and chilled snacking in the United Kingdom.
Kerry Group finished the year at €111.1, up 28% from €86.5 in 2018 and compared with €93.5 in 2017 and €67.67 in 2016. During the year, Kerry benefited from the integrations of Ariake USA, the North American business of Ariake Japan Co., which produces clean label savory taste solutions derived from poultry, pork and vegetables, and Southeastern Mills North American coatings and seasonings business (SEM), which manufactures coatings and seasonings at its manufacturing base in Rome, Ga. Both businesses were acquired in December 2018.
Origin Enterprises, a food and agri-business group based in Dublin, finished the year at €3.71, down 36% from €5.73 in 2018 and compared with €6.34 in 2017.
In Australia, GrainCorp Ltd. closed the year at A$7.58, down 17% from A$9.17 in 2018. The company’s stock price fluctuated throughout the year, climbing as high as A$9.9 in mid-February before falling as low as A$7.20 in November. In December, Robert Spurway was named CEO and managing director. He will take over after the completion of the planned demerger of the company’s malt business in early 2020.
Nutrien Ltd., which was formed in January 2018 as a merger of Agrium Inc. and PotashCorp., closed 2019 at C$62.17, down 3% from C$64.12 in 2018.
In France, Groupe Danone S.A., the country’s largest food and beverage company, closed 2019 at €73.9, up 20% from €61.51 in 2018. In October, Francisco Camacho, executive vice-president of Essential Dairy & Plant-Based for Danone, said the company intends to reach €5 billion in plant-based sales by 2025. To reach the goal of €5 billion in sales, Camacho said Danone will rely on adjacencies, innovation and different ingredients.
“This is what in the business lingo you would call a big, hairy and audacious goal,” he said.
In The Netherlands, Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch food and personal products business, closed 2019 at €51.23, up from €47.42 in 2018.
Ahold, the Dutch-based company with global food retailing and food service operations, finished the year at €22.3, up 1% from €22.075 in 2018, while DSM, the Dutch chemical company with food ingredient interests, increased 63% to €116.1 from €71.44 in 2018.
Corbion finished higher in 2019, rising 15% to €28.12 from €24.46 in 2018. Corbion acquired Granotec do Brazil, a manufacturer of functional blends for the Brazilian bakery industry, for $45 million. The purchase of Granotec do Brazil fits into Corbion’s previously announced Creating Sustainable Growth strategy, which includes expanding its bakery business geographically and extending its North American Bakery solution provider model into Latin America.
In Switzerland, Nestle S.A., the world’s largest food company, closed at 104.78 Swiss francs, up 31% from 79.8 Swiss francs in 2018. In October, Nestle announced the creation of a new group strategy and business development function to support the company in identifying internal and external strategic growth opportunities. The function also will manage external partnerships and licensing agreements and oversee corporate venture capital activities.
“In a period of rapid change in our industry, it will be more important than ever to recognize key trends early and to act on them fast, including but not limited to portfolio adjustments,” said Ulf Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestle.
Aryzta AG closed 2019 at 1.082 Swiss francs, down narrowly from 1.089 Swiss francs in 2018 and compared with 38.65 Swiss francs in 2017. In an Oct. 8 conference call with analysts, Kevin E. Toland, CEO of Aryzta, said North America accounts for approximately 40% of Aryzta’s total group revenue and 32% of group EBITDA. As such, the division is an important element of Aryzta’s business and turnaround and growth strategy. Although fiscal 2019 was difficult, Toland said the company is focused on the issues and is making progress. Toland said the revenue stabilization in North America “is challenging, and the recovery will take time and will be bumpy.”
Share price movement in Japan was weaker during 2019. Nisshin Seifun, the Japanese holding company that includes Nisshin Milling, Japan’s largest flour miller, closed at Y1906, down sharply from Y2271 in 2018. The company’s share price had hit a high of Y2666 in late May before plummeting in late July. Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. acquired Allied Pinnacle from Pacific Equity Partners, a move that Nisshin said will make it the largest flour milling company in Oceania. Based in Rhodes, Australia, Allied Pinnacle is Australia’s largest end-to-end bakery ingredient supplier with a strong presence in flour, premixes and prepared bakery products.
Nippon Flour Mills Co. Ltd. declined 8% for the year, falling to Y1690 from Y1836, but Nissin Foods Holdings, a leading manufacturer of instant noodles, increased 18% to Y8120 from Y6900. In July, Nissin Foods Co. Ltd. said it plans to invest approximately RMB 180 million ($26.2 million) to build a new production plant in Zhuhai, the People’s Republic of China. The new facility will be used to manufacture packaging materials to accommodate business growth and development in China and Hong Kong.
Baking leaders Yamazaki Baking and First Baking Co. Ltd. were mixed in 2019. Yamazaki closed at Y1949, down 15% from Y2306 in 2018. First Baking, meanwhile, finished at Y967, down 3% from Y998 in 2018.
Olam International, which supplies food and industrial raw materials, finished at 1.81 Singapore dollars, up from 1.65 Singapore dollars in 2018.
Wilmar International, which operates in four segments — tropical oils, oilseeds and grains, sugar and others — increased 32% to 4.12 Singapore dollars from 3.12 Singapore dollars in 2018.
Indonesia’s Indofood, one of the largest food producers in Asia, increased 6% to R7925 from R7450 in 2018.
South Africa-based Tiger Brands Ltd. fell in 2019, finishing at R21071, down 23% from R27378 in 2018.
Egyptian companies engaged in flour milling were lower in 2019, led by a 36% decline at South Cairo and Giza Flour Mills. Other declines Included North Cairo Flour, down 35%; Egyptian Starch, down 31%; Middle and West Delta Flour Co., down 22%; Alexandria Flour Mills and Bakeries Co., down 20%; Upper Egypt Flour, down 20%; Middle Egypt Flour, down 19%; and East Delta Flour Co., down 10%.
In Africa, Flour Mills of Nigeria P.L.C. decreased 15% after decreasing 20% in 2018. Flour Mills Nigeria is primarily involved in flour milling, pasta production and cements production.
In Spain, Ebro Foods shares rose 11% to €19.29 from €17.44 in 2018.