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Move over, Special K: Here comes Bear Naked
[November 24, 2007]

Move over, Special K: Here comes Bear Naked

(Stamford Advocate, The (Stamford, CT) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Nov. 24--Norwalk-based granola maker Bear Naked Inc. may look smaller than a Rice Krispy compared with the $11 billion Kellogg Co.

But the corn flake giant from Battle Creek, Mich., apparently believes the company that two twenty-something Darien High School grads started five years ago with $8,000 is "Grrr-eaat!"

Kellogg bought Bear Naked early this month, according to a regulatory filing by the cereal maker.

Kellogg paid a total of $122 million for Bear Naked and Irvine, Calif.-based Wholesome & Hearty Foods Co., a manufacturer of veggie burgers under the Gardenburger brand, said Kellogg's 10-Q report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Kellogg did not disclose how much it paid alone for Bear Naked, which also makes flavored oatmeal and snacks.

Kellogg spokeswoman Kris Charles told the Battle Creek Enquirer that Kellogg's Kashi Co. organic unit will grow and manage the Bear Naked brand from Kashi's La Jolla, Calif., headquarters. Kashi makes Golean and Kashi Mighty Bites cereals.

The future of Bear Naked's 40 headquarters employees in Norwalk and 60 production workers in Stamford is uncertain.

Officials at Kellogg, Kashi and Bear Naked could not be reached yesterday.

Kashi foresees prosperity for Bear Naked, which had sales of about $40 million last year.

"Bear Naked provides Kashi with a significant growth opportunity through expansion into new products and new consumers, specifically healthy snacks and Gen X/Y health conscious consumers," Charles said in an interview with the Battle Creek newspaper. "Kashi will leverage its expertise and knowledge of the natural healthy lifestyle segment to continue to further the Bear Naked brand."

"Strategically, this is a smart move for Kellogg because healthy is where the cereal market is going," said Craig Johnson, president of New Canaan-based retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. "That's the growth end of the market."

Kellogg can buy a company like Bear Naked for less than the cost of creating a rival product, said Frank Dell, president of Stamford-based Dellmart & Co., a consultant to the food industry.

"Kellogg's has a very strong sales force," Dell said. "They can get nationwide distribution much faster and at a lower cost than Bear Naked could. They can get it into a lot more stores and chains."

Bear Naked sells products nationwide through Costco, Target and Whole Foods and regionally at Stop & Shop, Stew Leonard's, Palmer's Market and other stores. Kellogg can help Bear Naked penetrate further into various U.S. markets, Dell said.

Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott, now in their late 20s, founded Bear Naked in 2002 in Darien.

Its headquarters moved last year from 397 Post Road, Darien, to an office building known as One Selleck St., Norwalk, which overlooks the Norwalk River and Interstate 95. The company's bakery and warehouse is on Halloween Boulevard on Stamford's East Side.

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