Founded in 1983 by entrepreneur Tom Baliker, Spartan Foods of America, Inc. “Spartan” manufactures shelf-stable, gourmet pizza crusts sold under the Mama Mary’s® brand name at over 20,000 retail locations throughout the United States. Spartan also manufactures frozen pizza crusts for distribution through various institutional and food service channels.
Spartan Foods had a loyal customer following for its products, but needed growth capital and strategic guidance to realize its full potential. At the time of Azalea’s investment, Spartan’s underlying strengths included superior, high value products along with excess production capacity with its manufacturing assets. While the Company had a strong reputation with grocers throughout the southeast, there was limited distribution of its products outside the region. Azalea’s investment thesis was to: 1) Fill the excess capacity by broadening Spartan’s leadership and sales teams, 2) Expand the pipeline of new products being developed, and 3) Provide additional financial resources to drive marketing and promotions. Together, these efforts helped expand the distribution of Spartan’s full product line throughout the United States which, in turn, drove rapid sales growth.
- Recruited a seasoned food industry executive to join as CEO and co-invest with Azalea
- Defined President Tom Baliker’s critically important role in the business to focus on revenue growth and new product development
- Made key investments in the manufacturing plant and equipment to enhance efficiency and further expand production capacity
- By focusing on product development, several new products introduced to market broadening Spartan’s offering to grocery stores
- Made several new management hires including Plant Manager, Director of IT, Director of Quality, as well as expanding the Sales and Marketing team
- Optimized Spartan’s supply chain processes to realize substantial cost savings and improve gross margins
- Aggressively invested in marketing and slotting to enable Mama Mary’s® to grow from a regional to a national brand
- Led the acquisition of Mystic Pizza Company® (a frozen pizza brand), providing a second brand platform which leveraged Spartan’s manufacturing asset and sales infrastructure
- Revenues grew 3.5x
- EBITDA expanded 10x
- Successful exit of the investment through a competitive sale process
- In recognition of Spartan’s growth, Tom Baliker was awarded the Entrepreneur of The Year Award for the Southeast Region by Ernst and Young