The largest independent salty snack company in the United States and an investment firm are forming a new partnership.

Metropoulos & Co. is making a significant investment in the 95-year-old company snack company Utz Quality Foods, LLC.

The Rice family, which has owned and operated the business for four generations, will continue to be the controlling and majority shareholders.

Utz, which recently acquired Golden Enterprises, the Birmingham, Alabama producer of snacks under the popular Golden Flake brand in the southern United States, is expected to generate approximately $800 million in combined sales in 2017.

Over the past five years, the company has made several other key acquisitions, broadening its brand portfolio to include Good Health, Bachman, Zapp's, "Dirty", Snikiddy and Wachusett and expanding its distribution and geographic footprint.

The Metropoulos & Co. investment, which was used to finance Utz's acquisition of Golden Flake, is the largest initial private equity transaction for a U.S. snack company since 2013, when Metropoulos and Apollo Global Management invested in Hostess Brands.

With extensive consumer products knowledge, operational expertise and flexible capital, Metropoulos & Co. is well-known for its past work with such brands as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ghirardelli Chocolates, Bumble Bee Foods, Vlasic Pickles, Chef Boyardee and Perrier-Jouet/Mumm, among many others.

"Nearly a century ago, the Utz company was born in a small town kitchen by an entrepreneurial couple, Bill and Salie Utz, who created a fast-growing business making fresh potato chips for local markets with an intense focus on premier quality products," says Dylan Lissette, president & CEO of Utz. "For the past 95 plus years, Utz has not only defied the odds as a successful family-owned business, we have thrived, by continuously reinvesting in our company, expanding our offerings and reach through key acquisitions, and never deviating from our core values and our commitment to our people and our high quality products.”

Lissette says the company considered a variety of possibly partners, before settling on Metropoulos .

"As we got to know the Metropoulos team and talked with many who have worked with them previously, it became clear they were not your typical investment firm,” Lissette explains. “In addition to being a true family-owned firm, their expertise in operations, brand expansion, innovation, growth and acquisition integration, combined with shared family values and a passion for heritage brands, made this opportunity very unique.  We are excited to continue to lead this company forward, working closely with our new partners as we enter this new chapter of Utz expansion, reinvestment and growth."

Daren Metropoulos, principal at Metropoulos & Co., says the company is excited to be a part of Utz’s future.

"We look forward to working closely with Utz's management team to develop creative product innovation, capture new consumers and generations of snackers with strategic guerrilla marketing and branding, and to broaden Utz distribution nationally, while enhancing overall operations and focusing on future strategic acquisitions," he says.

Founded in 1921, Utz Quality Foods, LLC is the largest privately-held and family-managed salty snack company in the United States, producing a full line of products including potato chips, pretzels, cheese snacks, corn chips, tortillas, veggie stix/straws, popcorn, onion rings, pork skins and more.  Its brands, which include Utz, Golden Flake, Zapp's, "Dirty" Potato Chips, Good Health, Bachman, Bachman Jax,  Wachusett and Snikiddy among others, are distributed nationally and internationally through grocery, mass-merchant, club stores, convenience stores, drug stores and other channels.  Based in Hanover, PA, Utz operates 11 facilities located in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Alabama and Florida. 

Metropoulos & Co. is a leading, family-owned investment firm that leverages extensive industry knowledge, operational expertise and flexible capital to invest in strong brands and businesses in the food and beverage and consumer products sectors.  Over the course of nearly thirty years, the firm has invested in approximately 80 entities – transforming companies, accelerating revenue and earnings growth and propelling to renewed prominence scores of iconic brands.  Brands include: Hostess Brands, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ghirardelli, Perrier-Jouet/Mumm, Chef Boyardee, Hungry Man, Bumble Bee, Vlasic, Gulden's, Duncan Hines, Aunt Jemima, among others.