NEW YORK & BARRON, Wis. – Barron, Wisconsin-headquarterd Heartisan Foods, a leading manufacturer and the largest online U.S. seller of specialty & flavored cheese, is buying North Country Packaging, also based in Barron County. The transformative deal will triple Heartisan’s manufacturing capacity, support the fast-growing Cheese Brothers online brand with expanded fulfilment capabilities, and allow Heartisan to launch new, innovative products across cheese spreads and cheese curds – both of which help support Heartisan’s growth in the fast-growing cheese snack category. North Country’s co-founders, Kendall Goossen (taking a senior executive role at Heartisan) and his wife Maria will retain a significant stake in the combined entity.
“We’ve known the Goossens and their colleagues at North Country for years and we share the exact same vision,” says Gene Graf, CEO of Heartisan. “The added capacity comes at just the right time, given that we’re currently running our production facilities at full steam. With 32 different North Country cheese spreads and cheese curds to choose from, Heartisan’s customers now have a different flavor to enjoy every day of any month.” North Country’s innovative products range from tomato & sweet basil curds to habanero ghost pepper spreads. “This deal is the perfect way to accelerate growth, speed up innovation, and expand cutting-edge products at both companies,” says Goossen.
To finance the purchase of North Country, Ronin is using a $10 million revolving credit line established for Heartisan when the latter was formed in 2021. Ronin created Heartisan through the simultaneous acquisition and merger of flavored & smoked cheese specialists Red Apple Cheese, Barron County Cheese, and the direct-to-consumer eCommerce business Cheese Brothers. That original transaction was financed by institutional investors and family offices including Landon Capital, Cardinal Equity and First Haven Capital.
In addition to online sales, Heartisan’s flavored and smoked cheese is distributed across the U.S. through more than 12,000 retail outlets. “Expanding capacity and driving innovation in new flavors and product categories shows our retail and consumer partners how committed we are to supporting their needs and driving growth” says Ronin partner Tiffany Bell, a Heartisan board member. “The expanded capacity will enhance our margins and give us better control of the supply chain, fulfilment, and quality.”
Heartisan, with yearly revenues of more than $50 million, has seen sales and profits rise 30 percent annually since its creation. As is typical in Ronin investments, Bell was seconded to Heartisan as CFO at the time of the group’s creation, setting up the infrastructure, systems and processes that have enabled the management team to drive Heartisan’s exceptional growth.
About Ronin Equity Partners
Based in New York City, Ronin Equity Partners represents a new type of investment firm, powered by an operationally-focused value creation strategy. Ronin makes control equity investments exclusively in the Industrial and Consumer sectors, where the team has prior investment and operating expertise. The group invests in market leaders with highly defensible market positions, strong demonstrated cash flows, and in situations where Ronin’s operating playbook can add value through enhanced systems, processes, and talent recruitment. The Ronin team embeds into each company as interim senior executives to build a robust back-office infrastructure capable of scaling the business for growth and seamlessly integrating acquisitions. This partnership empowers management to focus on growing the business without being burdened by back-office operations. The firm was founded in 2019 by Managing Partners David Feierstein and Jesse Yao alongside other former senior executives from Kraft Heinz, NCR, and Diversey. The firm is supported by some 75 operating advisors in the consumer and industrials sectors. www.roninequitypartners.com