Cott is a leading route based North American and European water, coffee, tea, extract and filtration solution service provider with the largest volume-based national presence in the North American and European home and office bottled water delivery industry and a leader in custom coffee roasting and blending of iced tea for the U.S. foodservice industry. Our platform reaches over 2.3 million customers or delivery points with over 2,500 direct-to-consumer routes across North America and Europe supported by strategically located sales and distribution facilities and fleets, as well as wholesalers and distributors. This enables us to efficiently service residences, businesses, restaurant chains, hotels and motels, small and large retailers, and healthcare facilities.
Each year we undertake an annual business planning process or strategic review in which we look out over the next 3, 5, 7 and 10 years. This analysis takes place at the back half of the year and we review categories, trends, economic indicators, shifts in consumer behavior and numerous other factors. It was during this strategic review in 2013 that we developed the diversification strategy that we have implemented over the last few years which has seen our business transform from a low cost manufacturer on behalf of others with concentrations in sugary sweetened beverages and customer concentrations to a leading route based business in growing markets and categories with the expectation for steady topline, EBITDA and free cash flow growth and ongoing value creation for our shareholders.
The end result of our strategic analysis was the creation of our go forward strategy to drive shareholder value. The two key components of this strategy was to utilize organic measures to drive volume stability within our traditional business in order to maintain its strong free cash flows while accelerating the pace and scale of our asset based diversification with a focus on the water and coffee segments both of which had modest topline growth as well as longer term projections for continued modest growth as a part of the “health and wellness” or “better for you” trend. Our goal, Cott’s goal was and continues to be to transition our business through a combination of organic actions and synergistic transactional activity in order to progressively shift towards a higher margin and/or higher growth business, while keeping a strong focus on our 4 C’s (customers first, products at a low or fair cost, tight controls over capital spend, and in turn the generation of modest topline growth leading to ongoing free cash flow growth).
Since announcing this strategy we have undertaken a significant amount of both organic and transactional activity.
The combination of these actions now in place (including the sale of our traditional beverage manufacturing business) provides a significantly improved business profile with products and services in higher margin, growing categories, meaningfully lower customer concentration, consolidation opportunities at highly synergistic values as well as strong compound free cash flow generation.
In 2014, we acquired DS Services the market leader in the growing U.S. home and office water delivery segment, as well as a top five position in U.S. office coffee services and a smaller but faster growing water filtration business.
After integrating the DS Services business and in order to continue to execute our strategy we acquired Aquaterra in January of 2016 (the leading home and office water delivery business in Canada) creating the largest North American home and office water delivery platform.
In June of 2016 we announced our move into European home and office water delivery with the acquisition of Eden Springs, Europe’s largest home and office water delivery business as well as a top five position in filtration and office coffee services and in August of 2016 we announced the acquisition of S&D Coffee & Tea, a leading US based manufacturer, distributor and service provider of custom coffee roasting, tea blending and liquid extract production.
In July of 2017 we announced that we had entered into a definitive agreement to sell our traditional beverage manufacturing business (“Cott Beverages”) to Refresco (Euronext: RFRG) for USD $1.25 billion. The transaction included the Cott North America, U.K., and Mexico businesses (excluding the RCI International division and its associated concentrate facility as well as the Aimia Foods division). The transaction closed on January 30, 2018.
With our significantly improved business profile, operations in growing categories, lower customer concentration, and reduced leverage and exposure to mature categories we believe that these actions will allow us to continue to improve on our already successful free cash flow generation in which we have generated $100 plus million dollars of adjusted free cash flow over the last 9 years (2009-2016) and with the current shape of our business we have a strong outlook for compound growth in free cash flow with adjusted 2019 free cash flow estimated at $150 million. This is driven by growth of our water and coffee solutions businesses, the capture of additional synergies across our water and coffee solutions platform, and incremental growth from small overlapping tuck-in acquisitions within our water and coffee solutions businesses. Since announcing our strategy we have refined our vision and created/updated our mission which reflect our current priorities and are designed to strengthen the business and continue to drive the business to one with modest topline growth driven by the growing markets in which we operate in as well as our ability to consolidate these markets with small, highly accretive customer list acquisition opportunities; margin expansion through our scaled platforms with increased customer and route density; innovation driving further topline growth and margin expansion; and in turn compound free cash flow growth.
Our Vision - Be the preeminent international route based direct to consumer water and coffee solutions provider with superior shareholder returns through above market organic growth, expanding margins, growing free cash flow and further acquisitions with a key focus on increasing route density.
One: To drive growth from “Better-for-You” product offerings (positioned in growing categories of water, coffee, tea, filtration and extracts).
Two: Focused innovation within product development, route logistics and technology creating further growth, cross sell and customer service opportunities.
Three: Margin expansion through scaled platforms with increased customer and route density.
Four: Consolidation / customer list opportunities at highly synergistic values.
Five: Strong compound free cash flow generation (10% plus compound annual growth in adjusted free cash flow).