Norwest Equity Partners (NEP), a Minneapolis-based middle market investment firm, made an investment in Old Hickory Smokehouse LLC, a manufacturer, marketer and distributor of food and beverage products sold into the retail grocery and foodservice channels under both branded and private label offerings. NEP’s investment was made in partnership with Wayne Wolf, chief executive officer of Old Hickory. The transaction closed Feb. 20, 2015; financial terms were not disclosed.

“Our firm has been actively seeking investments in this segment, and to have the opportunity to partner with an industry veteran such as Wayne Wolf and be involved with a company that is well-positioned for continued growth is very exciting,” says Todd Solow, an NEP partner and Old Hickory board member. “The company’s focus on prepared meats and accessories is attractive due to a large addressable market and multiple growth opportunities.”

Wolf is an industry veteran with a variety of corporate officer experiences during his 30-plus year career at McDonald's, including restaurant operations, supply chain and corporate strategy. During that career, McDonald's acquired Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Wolf served on the board. Wolf was also president of an international software and technology services firm funded through the venture capital community. Old Hickory benefits from his unique experiences and a highly-experienced ownership vested management team readying the company for significant growth and market penetration.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the NEP team,” adds Wolf. “Having an investment partner with a long-standing history and reputation for successful investments, as well as experience within the industry is a key component for our next stage of growth. We share the same values, ‘Do the right thing...especially when it matters the most.’ Together, we are perfectly positioned to penetrate a broad market with numerous categories, including exciting opportunities within the foodservice channel as the restaurant industry continues to diversify menu offerings and offer additional smoked products. The demand for BBQ and specialty smoked meats is growing faster than any other menu category, as consumers demand high-quality, authentically prepared BBQ-related products. The relationship with Myron Mixon [pitmaster] and his growing national notoriety will accelerate consumer acceptance of the Old Hickory ‘competition quality’ products. Add the partnership with NEP and Old Hickory has the opportunity to dominate this marketplace."

Other senior members of the Old Hickory team include John Schwan, an experienced business investor and active military veteran, and Jim Dismore, former senior vice president of Wal-Mart.

Old Hickory operates its business out of its 85,000-square-foot facility in Lewisburg, Tenn.