Canada-based meat and poultry company Maple Leaf Foods has signed a definitive agreement with Brynwood Partners VI L.P. to acquire Lightlife Foods, Inc., a leading manufacturer and brand of refrigerated plant-based protein foods in the United States, for US$140 million, and related costs.

The transaction will be financed from cash on hand. Based on current operating results, the acquisition is expected to be accretive to Maple Leaf's earnings in 2017. The deal will close in March, subject to customary U.S. regulatory review. 

"Expanding into the fast-growing plant-based proteins market is one of Maple Leaf's strategic growth platforms and supports our commitment to become a leader in sustainability," Michael McCain, Maple Leaf Foods’ president and CEO, said in a press release. "Consumers are increasingly looking to diversify their protein consumption, including plant-based options. The acquisition of Lightlife provides Maple Leaf with a leading market position and brand in the United States in a category that is outpacing growth in the broader packaged foods sector. We will expand our presence through investment in brand building, innovation and leveraging our respective capabilities."

Lightlife reported 2016 sales of approximately US$40 million and has 38 percent market share in the U.S. refrigerated plant proteins market. The company employs approximately 100 people at its facility in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, where it manufactures more than 30 innovative products, including plant-based tempeh, hot dogs, breakfast foods and burgers. Lightlife management will continue to lead the business, which will operate as a subsidiary of Maple Leaf.

"We at Lightlife are truly excited about today's announcement which will allow us to accelerate our growth and broaden our reach in the fast growing plant-based protein market. Maple Leaf Foods has an industry leading commitment to sustainable protein, including a strategic focus on plant proteins, and being part of this incredible organization will enable the continued growth of our brands," said Roy Lubetkin, President and CEO, Lightlife Foods.

Maple Leaf is committed to leadership in sustainability and creating business value through addressing environmental and social issues including environmental sustainability, animal welfare, food security, and nutrition and health. The expansion into plant-based proteins supports this commitment and provides exciting growth opportunities for the Company beyond its platform in advancing sustainable meat.

The U.S. market for plant-based proteins is estimated at US$600 million, with the refrigerated category representing over US$110 million and delivering double-digit annual growth.