Wading deeper into a growing market of health-conscious consumers, Abbott Laboratories Monday agreed to buy diet supplement maker EAS for about $320 million in cash.
Golden, Colo.-based EAS has a set of well-known brands that includes AdvantEdge for weight loss and balanced nutrition and Myoplex for sports performance. The privately held company generated about $300 million in sales last year.
The acquisition will help Abbott broaden its Columbus, Ohio-based Ross Products nutrition business beyond standby products such as the infant formula Similac and nutritional bars and drinks such as Ensure and Glucerna.
Increasingly, Ross has been branching out in lines of products that are marketed more directly to consumers rather than to a mix of consumers and medical professionals. Last year, for example, Abbott paid $160 million for Beverly, Mass.-based ZonePerfect Nutrition Co., which has a popular line of nutrition bars and meal-replacement products.
The ZonePerfect acquisition helped boost the Ross division's U.S. sales about 10 percent in the first half of this year to nearly $1.2 billion.
Gary McCullough, who heads Abbott's Ross business, said the EAS brands will fit nicely into the company's healthy living business unit.
"These brands complement that space," said McCullough, who just 10 months ago joined Abbott as senior vice president of Abbott's Ross Products division from a senior consumer marketing post at Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
In EAS, Abbott is acquiring a company with established brands. The company uses well-known celebrities such as model Cindy Crawford and former Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe.
"EAS' strong brands, broad distribution and innovative products and processes strategically fit with our commitment to offering consumers great nutrition choices based on solid science," McCullough said.
EAS was founded in 1990 by Bill Phillips, author of the popular nutrition book Body for Life. Phillips sold EAS in 1999 to private equity firm North Castle Partners of Greenwich, Conn.
Abbott is paying North Castle cash in exchange for all of the stock in EAS, an Abbott spokesman said. The deal is expected to close before the end of the fourth quarter.
EAS has more than 260 employees. Abbott said EAS will remain located in Golden, Colo.
By selling to North Chicago-based Abbott, EAS and North Castle executives said, the diet supplements will benefit from being part of a larger organization with a worldwide sales and marketing operation.
Shares of Abbott rose 34 cents, to $41.17, Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times