DOJ Says Stone Canyon Must Divest US Salt Before Acquiring Morton to Keep Competition in the Salt Industry

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press release on Monday that in order to preserve competition among table salt companies, it is going to require Stone Canyon Industry Holdings to divest US Salt before it acquires Morton Salt. The DOJ also filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the District of Columbia District Court to block the acquisition alleging that consumers benefit from the competition between the two companies. 

The DOJ said that a proposed settlement filed with the complaint, if approved, “would resolve the competitive harm alleged in the complaint. Under the settlement, Stone Canyon would divest its “entire evaporated salt business in order to proceed with their proposed acquisition,” and other assets, this includes divesting its subsidiary US Salt, which is a subsidiary of SCIH Salt Holdings Inc., formerly known as Kissner Group Holdings LP, which was acquired by Stone Canyon in April 2020. 

“Americans use and depend on evaporated salt products every day for nutritional, medical and cleaning purposes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in the release. “Without the divestiture, this merger likely would have led to higher prices and lower quality for consumers throughout the United States. Today’s settlement will ensure that consumers, patients, and businesses continue to benefit from competition for these critical products.”

Morton and US Salt LLC are two of three producers of “round-can table salt” in the United States. Morton is reportedly the “largest branded supplier” and US Salt the “largest supplier of private-label round-can table salt,” according to the DOJ. The two companies are also two of only three companies to produce bulk evaporated salt, used in food processing and chemical manufacturing, and are the only companies that produce pharmaceutical-grade salt, which is used in multiple medical products. 

Because of the small number of companies producing these forms of salt, the DOJ alleged that Morton and US Salt should remain separate to keep competition and competitive prices in the market. 

“US Salt has been in operation for over 100 years and is operated as a largely independent entity within Stone Canyon and SCIH. The proposed settlement will fully preserve the competitive landscape that exists in these evaporated salt markets today, as US Salt constitutes Stone Canyon’s and SCIH’s entire business that competes in the sale of evaporated salt products, including round-can table salt, pharmaceutical-grade salt, and bulk evaporated salt,” the press release stated. 

The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for a 60-day comment period before given final approval by the court.