Amid Merger Speculation, Oreo-Maker Mondelez Launches New Health-Focused Brand

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Oreo-maker Mondelez International announced the launch of a savory snack brand Tuesday, tailor-made for today’s health-conscious consumers, even as merger speculation continues to envelop the company.

Over the weekend, Kraft Heinz withdrew its $143 billion bid for the European firm Unilever, reviving the possibility that a Kraft Heinz could turn its attention to Mondelez, which is headquartered in suburban Chicago.

Meanwhile, Mondelez, the global snack and confectionary company known for Oreos, Ritz crackers and Cadbury chocolate, attempted to bolster its own prospects for sales growth by introducing a brand that’s in step with consumer trends. The new Vea products, including crunch bars, crisps and seed crackers, contain no artificial ingredients, colors or flavors and no genetically modified ingredients, according to a Mondelez news release.

They’re due on shelves in the U.S. and Canada by July and later will be expanded to other global markets.

“Vea truly underscores the best of our growth capabilities, including breakthrough product and packaging innovation, real-time data analytics, comprehensive distribution across multiple growth channels and fearless digital marketing,” Tim Cofer, chief growth officer for Mondelez, said in the news release.

“We’re receiving tremendous response from our major retail partners across North America, and we’re confident Vea will be a big success,” Mr. Cofer said.

Mondelez introduced Vea as a “power brand,” lumping it together with the company’s high-performing brands like Oreo, Ritz, Triscuit, Wheat Thins and Chips Ahoy, which collectively with other so-called power brands represent about 70 percent of the company’s global revenues.

Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld is expected to deliver remarks Tuesday at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference that will emphasize the company’s growth strategy, which includes cutting costs, prioritizing its top-selling brands and creating new products to appeal to today’s consumers. The company has worked in recent years to grow its profit margins, even as sales have declined.

None of it is likely to quash persistent rumors that Mondelez could be acquired by Kraft Heinz, which would be a reunion of sorts. Mondelez came into existence in 2012 when Kraft Foods split into two publicly traded companies. The spun-off North American grocery business, Kraft Foods Group, later merged with Heinz to become Kraft Heinz.

Kraft Heinz, backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital, shocked the industry late last week when it confirmed its grand plan to acquire Unilever. But the offer was unceremoniously rejected, signaling that other companies, like Mondelez, could once again be in play.