Japanese foodservice firm Zensho acquires US sushi specialist Snowfox Group
Tokyo, Japan-based Zensho Holdings has acquired Houston, Texas, U.S.A.-headquartered Snowfox Group, which operates 3,000 sushi kiosks in North America and the United Kingdom, for USD 621 million (EUR 575.5 million).
The Snowfox Group, a sushi manufacturer and wholesaler, was formerly known as Yo! Sushi but was renamed following a merger in 2019. Since that merger, Snowfox has rapidly expanded its full-service sushi program and now has relationships with numerous retailers, including Kroger, Loblaws, Walmart, Sobeys, Waitrose, Sam’s Club, Weis, Albertson’s, and Tesco. Its three main segments are its kiosk business, its sushi commissaries, and its restaurant business.
Zensho Holdings had JPY 658 billion (USD 4.7 billion, EUR 4.4 billion) in sales in 2022 and operates more than 10,000 restaurants globally, including the Sukiya beef bowl restaurant and the discount sushi chain Hama-sushi in Japan, and franchised supermarket-based foodservice counters in the U.S. under its Advanced Fresh Concepts (AFC) subsidiary, which it acquired in 2018. It also has retail stores and a nursing care business.
"This is an exciting moment for the Snowfox Group, and, having had seven successful years owned by Mayfair Equity Partners, this proposed transaction represents the next natural step for us as a business,” Snowfox CEO Richard Hodgson said in a statement. "I have been hugely impressed by Zensho during my recent meetings with them, and they share our own ambition of providing the highest quality, most authentic Japanese food at the best possible value. I believe this is absolutely the right move. Zensho recognizes the value of the Snowfox Group's highly attractive brands, our customer relationships, and our diversified international presence. Above all – it is testament to the quality, authenticity, and breadth of our Japanese food offer that a Japanese food business of Zensho's caliber wants us to join them.”
Mayfair Equity Partners, which purchased Snowfox for USD 100 million (EUR 371 million) in 2019 and combined it with Yo! Sushi, Bento Sushi, and Taiko Foods to create an entity worth USD 400 million (EUR 370.7 million) at the time, has “overseen successful diversification, international growth, and establishment of Snowfox Group,” according to Hodgson.
"I am grateful to all of my colleagues for their hard work and support in building the Snowfox Group into what it is today, and I look forward to our continued journey together. I would also like to thank the team at Mayfair, who have been hugely supportive owners,” Hogdson said. "I am looking forward to being part of the next stage of the Snowfox growth story, and as part of Zensho, I am confident that we will be ideally placed within the large, attractive, and highly competitive Japanese food category.”
Zensho and Snowfox are “highly complementary,” with Snowfox's diversified international footprint supporting Zensho's ambitions outside of its home market in Japan, according to Hogdson, who will remain employed at Snowfox along with the rest of the company’s senior leadership.
Mayfair, which has more than GBP 2 billion (USD 2.5 billion, EUR 2.3 billion) in assets under management, will fully exit Snowfox upon the completion of its sale, which will be subject to closing conditions.
"The fact that Zensho, a leading Japanese food conglomerate, is welcoming Snowfox to their group reflects the quality of the Japanese food business Snowfox has built,” Mayfair Partner Waqqas Ahmad said. “Richard and the whole Snowfox team have served customers exceptionally well over the last seven years, driven by a clear vision of continuous innovation and ensuring the highest-quality products. It has been a pleasure to be their partner, providing specialist support to diversify their business and grow internationally. As part of Zensho, Snowfox will be primed to reach more customers than ever before."
Photo courtesy of Snowfox