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Today’s hot IPO is a brand portfolio frozen in time

Pinnacle Foods started trading on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, with shares popping a little more than 10%. The company, which has been owned since 2007 by private equity firm Blackstone, is a giant in the very American industry of food that doesn’t go bad, from canned pickles to frozen fish sticks.

Indeed, perusing Pinnacle’s brand portfolio is like walking down the aisles of a Detroit grocery store in the 1960s. The company’s better known products include Aunt Jemima’s not-quite-maple syrup, frozen dinners under names like Hungry-Man and Mrs. Paul, Duncan Hines cake mix, Vlasick canned pickles, and Lender’s frozen bagels.

In fairness, many of these brands remain extremely popular in the United States and other countries. The stock will also pay a healthy dividend, which helps explain the appetite for today’s IPO. But the company’s potential for growth is an open question, and that array of dated brand logos doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Blackstone also loaded up Pinnacle with $2.1 billion in debt, which isn’t much of an issue in a world of low interest rates but could come back to haunt the company like a botulated can of vegetables.

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