MINNEAPOLIS and CHICAGO—PadillaCRT, one of the top 10 independent public relations firms in the US, has acquired FoodMinds, a specialist in food and nutrition communications. The deal creates a $43 million firm that ranks among the top 50 in the world and is home to one of the largest food practices in the nation.

FoodMinds, headquartered in Chicago with offices in San Francisco and Washington, DC, was founded in 2006 with the goal of helping food, nutrition and health clients engage in public dialogue and navigate the science, public affairs and communications landscape. Clients include Nestlé, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Hass Avocado Board—a client is has shared with PadillaCRT.

Padilla’s own food practice, led by Edward Hoffman in New York and serving clients such as the 
US Highbush Blueberry Council, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers and Wines from Rioja, has been more focused on marketing and brand-building. The two will be “partially integrated,” says Padilla chief executive Lynn Casey (pictured), with FoodMinds maintaining its own brand and management structure—under the leadership of founders Laura Cubillos, Bill Layden and Sue Pitman—but sharing know-how and business as appropriate.

“We have been approached by a number of clients who require a depth of scientific expertise and we have been reluctant to over-promise,” says Casey. But FoodMinds—which boasts 14 registered dieticians among its 35-person team—provide a real depth of expertise that is expected to result in new opportunities.

FoodMinds, meanwhile saw three main advantages, according to co-founder Layden: “People, clients and progress.”

On the people front, he says, “our business depends on talent and we are living in a very competitive world when it comes to talent. It’s easier to compete in an environment where we have more resources available.” Padilla’s geographic reach will increase the pool of talent available too. “We didn’t have a presence in New York,” says Layden, “and in the food business that’s critical.”

Clients, meanwhile, will get access to a broader range of capabilities, spanning creative—Padilla CRT
acquired brand strategy firm Joe Smith last year—digital, research, branding and crisis and critical issues communications.

And finally, as Layden and his co-founders thought about the future, and ways to build and grow the business, “we realized we could probably get there by ourselves, but that we could get there much faster with the right partner.”

Casey, meanwhile, suggested the critical mass was becoming more important. “With the growing importance of procurement, many clients want to see a certain kind of size, and this will help us provide that.”

She added that Padilla CRT had identified three areas for growth, including branding and food, where is has made acquisitions in the past few months. The third area is health, with a major hire expected soon to spearhead the firm’s expansion in that space.