When it comes to the food and beverage industry, we believe in getting to know the business – not just the law. We understand the significant challenges facing clients in all segments of the highly competitive food and beverage industry – from the receipt of harvests and subsequent processing and packaging through the delivery of food products to the grocery stores and restaurants that serve consumers. For decades, we have been helping clients not only surmount these hurdles, but also to realize the opportunities available in an evolving industry.
Food and ingredient processors and distributors, grocery chains, marketing cooperatives, dairy businesses and restaurants are among our many food and beverage clients that have benefited from our guidance on a full spectrum of issues from attorneys experienced in intellectual property, labor and employment, litigation, franchising and distribution, advertising, commercial financing, partnership and mergers and acquisitions law, as well as in financial markets regulation with respect to food and agriculture companies hedging price and risk exposure to commodity products.
It is this range of experience -- coupled with our thorough comprehension of our clients’ business needs and goals -- that supports our ability to help our clients not only grow and protect their brands but achieve success.
We are trusted advisors to clients ranging from start-up and early stage manufacturers of ingredients to privately held food product and flavoring companies that we have represented for several generations; from national processing and marketing cooperatives of farmers who produce the food to publicly-traded integrated food companies and U.S. subsidiaries of global food and beverage giants.
For many of these clients, we serve in a general counsel role, working closely with senior management on all aspects of their legal issues. When necessary, we coordinate our services with those of firm colleagues to provide exceptional representation in:
- General business litigation
- Franchise and distribution litigation
- Acquisitions and divestitures
- Joint ventures
- Trademarks and trade dress matters
- Labor and employment counseling and litigation
- Trade secrets and unfair competition
- Financial markets and products
- Securities, commodities and swaps regulation and litigation
- Supply chain negotiations and contracting
- Employee benefits
- Environmental compliance
Labor and Employment
By taking a client-centric approach to traditional labor law, we have built long-standing relationships with a number of Fortune 500 companies in the food and dairy industry. We represent these and other food and beverage clients in all aspects of employment law.
Clients turn to us for guidance in navigating the shifting landscape of federal and state employment, wage and hour, employee benefit, and anti-discrimination laws and regulations. We regularly negotiate labor agreements and represent clients in labor arbitrations. Our lawyers provide union avoidance counseling, guidance during union organizing campaigns and representation before the National Labor Relations Board.
We understand that the food and beverage industry is both a high-tech and a brand-focused industry, home to some of the most innovative companies developing cutting- edge technologies and marketing strategies. We partner with our food, beverage and ingredient manufacturing and distribution clients in developing, protecting and commercializing their inventions and trademarks. Our intellectual property attorneys work alongside our business, finance and corporate counselors to advise clients on how best to protect, exploit and enforce their patent, trade secret and trademark portfolios.
For food and beverage clients, success is often dependent on both brand recognition and brand reputation. We help our clients defend and protect their brands through litigation when necessary, including trade dress rights. We also have litigated successfully to protect our clients’ copyrights and design rights. Our patent trial lawyers have enjoyed success in litigation involving patented food industry products ranging from stuffed pizza crust and sausage topping to high quality cookware. We are also experienced in policing and enforcing popular, well-known trademarks such as Thermos ® and Sterno ®.
For food and beverage clients, success is often dependent on both brand recognition and brand reputation. We help our clients defend and protect their brands.
We have litigated successfully to protect a wide range of copyrights and trademarks in the industry, as well as to protect our clients’ design patent and trade dress rights.
We prosecute cases involving disputes among food and beverage producer/marketers and their distributors. In one such case we were retained to challenge a state law that was enacted to protect a politically influential beverage distributor from termination or other penalties for poor performance. We persuaded a federal court to strike the law down under the "contracts clause" of the U.S. Constitution, whereupon the state legislature repealed the law.
Having successfully developed the trade secrets doctrine of “inevitable disclosure” in the milestone case of PepsiCo, Inc. v Redmond 54 F. 3d 1262 (7th Cir. 1995), our trade secrets lawyers have continued to counsel clients and litigate, when necessary, on cutting edge trade secrets issues and applications in the food and beverage industry.
Business Operations, Transactions, Acquisitions and Divestitures
We have successfully represented Fortune 500 companies and agribusinesses in their day-to-day operations and in the structure, negotiation and completion of high profile food and beverage joint ventures, transactions, acquisitions and divestitures. Experienced in the full range of business operations, expansions, financings and M&A related transactions, from small private companies to multi-billion dollar business organizations, Schiff Hardin attorneys are able to anticipate and address food and beverage client needs – and help them realize their business objectives.
Capital Raising and Financing
We work with numerous growth companies in the food, beverage and ingredient space in negotiating, documenting and closing their equity and debt financings. This includes early-stage capital from angel investors active in this arena, and subsequent A, B and C rounds as these companies mature and expand their product offerings. We are often also on the investor side, representing strategic investors in their minority and controlling investments in food and beverage and ingredient companies. For our larger food and beverage companies we serve as on-going legal counsel in their financing activities, assisting with strengthening their lender relationships to support their growth.
Bankruptcies and Restructurings
Schiff Hardin’s Restructuring Group has an in-depth understanding of the relevant federal and state regulatory laws implicated by restructurings in this industry. This understanding enables our Restructuring Group to provide clients with legal and business solutions to complex challenges in distressed situations. We have served as counsel to several large food and beverage companies in significant bankruptcy proceedings throughout the country. We understand the unique nature of the product our clients deliver, and the particular rights and regulatory scheme that enables our clients to recover on often-perishable commodities delivered to an insolvent or bankrupt customer. We have also represented equipment lenders to franchisees across the country effectively protecting their interests in a sale, a liquidation or transition to another franchisee. Similarly, our restructuring attorneys have advised restaurants and retail food suppliers, navigating them through the restructuring process, making our restructuring lawyers some of the most experienced practitioners in this industry.