Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)


12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2023
Accounting Policies [Abstract]  
Whole Earth Brands, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries (“Whole Earth Brands” or the “Company”) is a global industry-leading platform, focused on the “better for you” consumer packaged goods (“CPG”) and ingredients space. The Company has a global platform of branded products and ingredients, focused on the consumer transition towards natural alternatives and clean label products.
On June 24, 2020, Act II Global Acquisition Corp., a Cayman Islands exempted company (“Act II”), domesticated into a Delaware corporation (the “Domestication”), and on June 25, 2020 (the “Closing”), consummated the indirect acquisition (the “Business Combination”) of (i) all of the issued and outstanding equity interests of Merisant Company (“Merisant”), Merisant Luxembourg Sarl (“Merisant Luxembourg”), Mafco Worldwide LLC (“Mafco Worldwide”), Mafco Shanghai LLC (“Mafco Shanghai”), EVD Holdings LLC (“EVD Holdings”), and Mafco Deutschland GmbH (together with Merisant, Merisant Luxembourg, Mafco Worldwide, Mafco Shanghai, and EVD Holdings, and their respective direct and indirect subsidiaries, “Merisant and Mafco Worldwide”), and (ii) certain assets and liabilities of Merisant and Mafco Worldwide included in the Transferred Assets and Liabilities (as defined in the Purchase Agreement (as hereafter defined)), from Flavors Holdings Inc. (“Flavors Holdings”), MW Holdings I LLC (“MW Holdings I”), MW Holdings III LLC (“MW Holdings III”), and Mafco Foreign Holdings, Inc. (“Mafco Foreign Holdings,” and together with Flavors Holdings, MW Holdings I, and MW Holdings III, the “Sellers”), pursuant to that certain Purchase Agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”) entered into by and among Act II and the Sellers dated as of December 19, 2019, as amended. In connection with the Domestication, Act II changed its name to “Whole Earth Brands, Inc.”
Upon the completion of the Domestication, each of Act II’s then-issued and outstanding ordinary shares converted, on a one-for-one basis, into shares of common stock of Whole Earth Brands. Additionally, immediately after the Business Combination, the Company issued an aggregate of 7,500,000 shares of Whole Earth Brands common stock and 5,263,500 private placement warrants exercisable for 2,631,750 shares of Whole Earth Brands common stock to certain investors. On the date of Closing, the Company’s common stock and warrants began trading on The Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbols “FREE” and “FREEW,” respectively.
Principles of Consolidation—The consolidated financial statements include the accounts of Whole Earth Brands, Inc., and its indirect and wholly owned subsidiaries. All intercompany accounts and transactions have been eliminated in consolidation.
Use of Estimates—The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the amounts reported in the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes. Actual results could differ from these estimates.
Reclassifications—Certain previously reported amounts have been reclassified to conform to the current presentation.
Cash and Cash Equivalents—The Company considers all cash on hand, money market funds, and other highly liquid debt instruments with a maturity, when purchased, of three months or less to be cash and cash equivalents.
Accounts Receivable and Allowance for Credit Losses—Trade accounts receivable are recorded at the invoiced amount and do not bear interest. The allowance for credit losses is the Company’s best estimate of the amount of probable losses in its existing accounts receivable based on historical and expected losses and current economic conditions. Account balances are charged against the allowance when the Company believes it is probable the receivable will not be recovered. The Company does not have any off-balance sheet credit exposure related to its customers. Recoveries of accounts receivable previously offset against the allowance are recorded in the consolidated statements of operations when received.
A summary of the activity with respect to the accounts receivable allowances is as follows (in thousands):
Accounts receivable allowance balance at December 31, 2020
$ 955 
2021 additions charged to revenues, costs and expenses 1,783 
2021 deductions and other (1,453)
Accounts receivable allowance balance at December 31, 2021
$ 1,285 
2022 additions charged to revenues, costs and expenses 2,711 
2022 deductions and other (2,382)
Accounts receivable allowance balance at December 31, 2022
$ 1,614 
2023 additions charged to revenues, costs and expenses
2023 deductions and other
Accounts receivable allowance balance at December 31, 2023
$ 1,460 
Inventories—Inventories are stated at the lower of cost or net realizable value. Net realizable value is the estimated selling price in the ordinary course of business less reasonably predictable costs of completion, disposal, and transportation. The cost of inventory is determined by the first in, first out or average cost methods.
Property, Plant and Equipment—Property, plant and equipment are recorded at cost. Additions, improvements, and replacements that extend asset life are capitalized. Depreciation is computed using the straight-line method over the estimated useful lives of the assets. The estimated useful lives of the Company’s property, plant and equipment in service currently ranges as follows: 3 to 40 years for buildings and 1 to 20 years for all other equipment.
When property and equipment are disposed of, the related cost and accumulated depreciation are removed from the respective accounts, and any gains or losses are included in income from operations. Ordinary repairs and maintenance costs are charged to operating expense as incurred.
Deferred Software Costs—Deferred implementation costs for hosted cloud computing service arrangements are stated at historical cost and amortized on a straight-line basis over the term of the hosting arrangement that the implementation costs relate to. Deferred implementation costs are included in other assets and amortized to selling, general and administrative expenses (“SG&A”). The corresponding cash flows related to deferred software costs will be reported within operating activities consistent with the treatment for payments associated with the service component of the hosting arrangement. The Company reviews the deferred implementation costs for impairment when it believes the deferred costs may no longer be recoverable. As of both December 31, 2023 and 2022, deferred software costs associated with cloud computing arrangements were $2.1 million. Costs of $0.8 million were amortized during 2023. No costs were amortized during 2022 or 2021.
Leases—The Company accounts for leases pursuant to Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) Topic 842, “Leases.” Under ASC Topic 842, a right-of-use asset and a lease liability is recorded for all leases with a term greater than 12 months. Lease right-of-use assets and lease liabilities are initially recognized based on the present value of the future minimum lease payments over the lease term at commencement date calculated using our incremental borrowing rate applicable to the lease asset, unless the implicit rate is readily determinable.
The Company’s leases include manufacturing facilities, office space, warehouses, material handling equipment, vehicles and office equipment. All of our leases are classified as operating leases.
Goodwill and Other Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets—Goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangible assets are summarized in Note 6. The Company reviews goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangible assets for impairment annually, or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate that an asset may be impaired, in accordance with ASC Topic 350, “Intangibles—Goodwill and Other.” Under ASC Topic 350, the impairment review of goodwill and other intangible assets not subject to amortization must be based on estimated fair values.
The Company’s annual impairment review measurement date is in the fourth quarter of each year. In performing the annual assessment, the Company has the option of performing a qualitative assessment to determine if it is more likely than not that a reporting unit has been impaired. As part of the qualitative assessment for the reporting units, the Company evaluates the factors that are specific to the reporting units as well as industry and macroeconomic factors (including changes in interest and discount rates). The reporting unit specific factors may include cost factors, a comparison of current year results to prior year, current year budget and future projected financial performance. The Company also considers the change in the overall enterprise value of the Company compared to the prior year.
If the Company determines that it is more likely than not that a reporting unit is impaired or if the Company elects not to perform the optional qualitative assessment, a quantitative assessment is performed utilizing both the income and market approaches to estimate the fair value of its reporting units. The income approach involves discounting future estimated cash flows. The discount rate used is the value-weighted average of the reporting unit’s estimated cost of equity and debt derived using both known and estimated customary market metrics adjusted for company specific risks. The Company performs sensitivity tests with respect to growth rates and discount rates used in the income approach. In applying the market approach, valuation multiples are derived from historical and projected operating data of selected guideline companies; evaluated and adjusted, if necessary, based on the strengths and weaknesses of the reporting unit relative to the selected guideline companies; and applied to the appropriate historical and/or projected operating data to arrive at an indication of fair value. The Company typically weights the results of the income and market approaches equally. If the reporting unit’s carrying value exceeds its estimated fair value, then an impairment is recorded for the difference, limited to the total amount of goodwill allocated to the reporting unit.
The Company typically evaluates impairment of indefinite-lived intangible assets, which relates to our product formulations, by first performing a qualitative assessment. If the Company elects to bypass the qualitative assessment or determines that it is more likely than not that the fair value of the product formulations is less than its carrying value, a quantitative assessment is then performed using the relief from royalty method under the income approach to estimate the fair value. Some of the more significant assumptions inherent in estimating the fair value include the estimated future annual sales, royalty rates (as a percentage of sales that would hypothetically be charged by a licensor of the brand to an unrelated licensee), income tax considerations and a discount rate that reflects the level of risk.

Impairment Review of Long-Lived Assets—In accordance with ASC Topic 360, “Property, Plant and Equipment,” the Company evaluates the carrying value of long-lived assets to be held and used whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of a long-lived asset or asset group may be impaired. When such events occur, the Company compares the sum of the future undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated from the asset or asset group over its remaining depreciable life to the carrying value. If this comparison indicates that there is an impairment, the carrying amount of the long-lived asset would then be reduced to the estimated fair value, which generally approximates discounted cash flows. The Company also evaluates the amortization periods of assets to determine whether events or circumstances warrant revised estimates of useful lives. The Company’s applicable long-lived assets include its property, plant and equipment, operating lease right-of-use assets and definite-lived intangible assets.
Derivative Instruments—The Company’s earnings and cash flows are subject to fluctuations due to changes in interest rates. The Company uses derivative financial instruments, including interest rate swaps, to manage interest rate exposures and hedge the variability of interest payments on future debt obligations. The Company does not use derivative financial instruments for trading or speculative purposes.
The Company formally documents all relationships between hedging instruments and hedged items, as well as the risk management objective and strategy for undertaking hedge transactions. This process includes linking the derivatives designated as cash flow hedges to specific forecasted transactions or variability of cash flows. The Company also formally assesses, both at the inception of a hedge transaction and on an ongoing basis, whether the designated derivatives that are used in hedging transactions are highly effective in offsetting changes in the cash flow of the hedged items as well as monitors the credit worthiness of the counterparties to ensure no issues exist which would affect the value of the derivatives. When a derivative is determined not to be highly effective as a hedge or the underlying hedged transaction is no longer probable, the Company discontinues hedge accounting prospectively and reclassifies any hedge related gains or losses previously recorded in other comprehensive income (loss) to other (expense) income within the statement of operations.
To the extent the hedge is effective, the Company records derivative financial instruments at fair value in its consolidated balance sheet and changes in the fair value are recorded in accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) and reclassified to earnings when the hedged item affects earnings. Cash flows from derivative instruments are classified in the consolidated statements of cash flows based on the nature of the derivative contract. Additional information pertaining to the Company’s derivative instruments is provided in Note 9.
Income Taxes—The provision for income taxes is determined using the asset and liability method in accordance with ASC Topic 740, “Accounting for Income Taxes.” The asset and liability method provides that deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the expected future tax consequences of temporary differences between the financial reporting and tax bases of assets and liabilities and for operating loss and tax credit carry forwards. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using the currently enacted tax rates and laws that will be in effect when the differences are expected to reverse. The Company records a valuation allowance to reduce deferred tax assets to the amount that is believed more likely than not to be realized.
The Company made a policy election to treat the income tax due on United States (“U.S.”) inclusion of the global intangible low taxed income (“GILTI”) provisions as a period expense when incurred.
Uncertainty in Income Taxes—The Company accounts for uncertain tax positions in accordance with the authoritative guidance issued under ASC Topic 740, which addresses the determination of whether tax benefits claimed or expected to be claimed on a tax return should be recorded in the financial statements. The Company may recognize the tax benefit from an uncertain tax position only if it is more likely than not that the tax position will be sustained on examination by the taxing authorities based on the technical merits of the position. The tax benefits recognized in the financial statements from such position should be measured based on the largest benefit that has a greater than fifty percent likelihood of being realized upon ultimate settlement. The Company provides loss contingencies for federal, state and international tax matters relating to potential tax examination issues, planning initiatives and compliance responsibilities. The development of these reserves requires judgements about tax issues, potential outcomes and timing, which if different, may materially impact the Company’s financial condition and results of operations. The Company classifies interest and penalties associated with income taxes as a component of provision (benefit) for income taxes in the consolidated statements of operations.
Pension Plans—The Company has defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution 401(k) plans, which cover certain current and former employees of the Company who meet eligibility requirements. Benefits for the defined benefit pension plans are based on years of service and, in some cases, the employee’s compensation. Participation was frozen to all employees hired on or after August 1, 2017. The Company’s policy is to contribute annually the amount required pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The Company froze the qualified pension plan for all participants on December 31, 2019 and froze the non-qualified pension plans on December 31, 2022. The Company terminated the qualified pension plan in 2022 and settled the pension obligations through lump sum payments in 2021 and the purchase of non-participating annuity contracts in 2022 to settle the remaining liabilities of the plan. Certain subsidiaries of the Company outside the U.S. have retirement plans that provide certain payments upon retirement. The Company recognizes in its balance sheet the funded status of its defined benefit pension plans, measured as the difference between the fair value of the plan assets and the benefit obligation and recognizes changes in the funded status of the defined benefit pension plans as accumulated other comprehensive loss, net of tax, within accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) to the extent such changes are not recognized in earnings as components of periodic net benefit cost (see Note 12). These amounts are subsequently amortized within other (expense) income in future periods using the corridor approach. The corridor is 10% of the greater of the market-related value of the plan’s assets or projected benefit obligation. Any actuarial gains and losses in excess of the corridor are then amortized over an appropriate term.
Research and Development Costs—The Company expenses costs as incurred for product research and development within SG&A. Research and development expenses were approximately $3.8 million for 2023, $3.9 million for 2022, and $3.4 million for 2021.
Stock-Based Compensation—In accordance with ASC Topic 718, “Compensation—Stock Compensation,” the Company recognizes stock-based compensation cost in its consolidated statements of operations. Stock-based compensation cost is measured at the grant date for equity-classified awards and at the end of each reporting period for liability-classified awards based on the estimated fair value of the awards. The Company recognizes stock-based compensation expense on a straight-line basis over the requisite service period. Additional information pertaining to the Company’s stock-based compensation is provided in Note 13.
Revenue Recognition—In accordance with ASC Topic 606, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers,” the Company recognizes revenue when control of the promised goods or services is transferred to the customers, in an amount that reflects the consideration the Company expects to be entitled to in exchange for those goods or services. Revenues are primarily derived from customer orders for the purchase of products and are generally recognized when the product is shipped or delivered depending on the arrangement with the customer. The Company made an accounting policy election to exclude from the measurement of the transaction price sales taxes and all other items of a similar nature, and also elected to account for shipping and handling activities as a fulfillment of the promise to transfer the goods. Accordingly, shipping and handling costs are included in cost of sales.
Branded CPG may offer promotional activities (e.g. coupons, trade discounts and other promotional activities) to its customers. These variable consideration amounts are estimated for each customer based on specific arrangements/agreements, an analysis of historical volume, and/or current activity with that customer. Reassessment of variable consideration estimates is done at each reporting date throughout the contract period until the uncertainty is resolved (e.g. promotional campaign is closed and settled with customer).
Historically, the Company has encountered limited instances whereby customers rejected products as a result of orders being materially inaccurate and/or products being defective. The Company tracks the reason codes for those customer returns. Based on that, the materiality of such returns is assessed. A return reserve is calculated (based on historical data as described above) every month to record an adjustment to net sales; these adjustments have not been significant.
The following table presents the Company’s revenues disaggregated by product categories (in thousands):
Year Ended
December 31, 2023 December 31, 2022 December 31, 2021
Sweeteners and adjacencies $ 426,287  $ 422,638  $ 389,174 
Licorice products 124,626  115,634  104,799 
Total product revenues, net $ 550,913  $ 538,272  $ 493,973 
The following table presents revenues disaggregated by business and geographic region (in thousands):
Year Ended
December 31, 2023 December 31, 2022 December 31, 2021
Branded CPG:
North America $ 305,849  $ 299,871  $ 266,661 
Europe 70,405  67,962  76,392 
India, Middle East and Africa 13,854  17,828  13,363 
Asia-Pacific 21,436  22,371  20,787 
Latin America 14,743  14,606  11,971 
Flavors & Ingredients 124,626  115,634  104,799 
Total product revenues, net $ 550,913  $ 538,272  $ 493,973 
The Company records an allowance for credit losses as an estimate of the inability of its customers to make their required payments. The determination of the allowance requires the Company to make assumptions about the future ability to collect amounts owed from customers.
Marketing, Advertising, Consumer Incentives and Trade Promotions—The Company promotes its products with marketing activities, including advertising, consumer incentives and trade promotions. On an annual basis, advertising costs are expensed as incurred or in the year in which the related advertisement initially appears. Marketing and advertising expense was $12.0 million in 2023, $11.8 million in 2022, $17.0 million in 2021.
Consumer incentive and trade promotion activities are deducted from revenue based on amounts estimated as being or becoming due to customers and consumers at the end of a period, based principally on the Company’s historical utilization and redemption rates. These deductions are estimated and recorded upon sale of product by the Company and revised as necessary at each period end.
Fair Value Measurements—The Company measures fair value using a three-tier fair value hierarchy, which prioritizes the inputs used in measuring fair value. These tiers include: Level 1, defined as observable inputs such as quoted prices in active markets; Level 2, defined as inputs other than quoted prices in active markets that are either directly or indirectly observable; and Level 3, defined as unobservable inputs in which little or no market data exists, therefore requiring an entity to develop its own assumptions.
In instances where the determination of the fair value measurement is based on inputs from different levels of the fair value hierarchy, the level in the fair value hierarchy within which the entire fair value measurement falls is based on the lowest level input that is significant to the fair value measurement in its entirety. The Company’s assessment of the significance of a particular input to the fair value measurement in its entirety requires judgment and considers factors specific to the asset or liability.
Major Customers and Credit Concentration—The Company sells products to customers in the U.S. and internationally. The Company performs ongoing credit evaluations of customers, and generally does not require collateral on trade accounts receivable. Allowances are maintained for potential credit losses and such losses have been within management’s expectations.
Foreign Currency Translation—The Company has determined that the functional currency for each combined subsidiary is its local currency, except for certain entities whose functional currency is the U.S. dollar. Assets and liabilities of entities outside the U.S. are translated into U.S. dollars at the exchange rates in effect at the end of each period and income statement accounts are translated at each period’s average exchange rate. Translation adjustments arising from the use of differing exchange rates from period to period are included as a component of accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) on the balance sheet, except for any entities which may operate in highly inflationary economies. Gains and losses resulting from transactions in other than functional currencies are reflected in operating results, except for transactions of a long-term nature.
Remeasurements of European entities whose functional currency is the U.S. dollar as well as translation adjustments for entities operating in highly inflationary economies and impacts of foreign currency transactions are recognized currently in other income (expense), net in the accompanying consolidated statements of operations. The Company had foreign exchange losses, net of $3.3 million in 2023, foreign exchange gains, net of $0.1 million in 2022, and foreign exchange losses of $0.2 million in 2021.
Beginning January 1, 2019, the Company was required to apply highly-inflationary accounting to its Argentinian subsidiary. This accounting treatment requires a change in the subsidiary’s functional currency from the local currency (Argentinian Peso) to the parent’s reporting currency (USD). This highly-inflationary classification results from the fact that the cumulative inflation rate for the preceding 3 year period exceeded 100 percent as of June 30, 2018. Accordingly, effective January 1, 2019, all Argentinian Peso denominated monetary assets and liabilities are considered foreign currency denominated assets and liabilities and are revalued to USD (the functional currency) with remeasurement adjustments in the period recorded in the statement of operations. The USD will be the functional currency until the economic environment in Argentina ceases to be considered highly-inflationary. The Company recorded $1.8 million of expense related to remeasurement adjustments for Argentina in the consolidated statements of operations for the year ended December 31, 2023, $1.2 million of expense for the year ended December 31, 2022 and $0.3 million of expense for the year ended December 31, 2021.
Restructuring and other expenses—In previous years the Company adopted restructuring plans to streamline processes and realize cost savings by consolidating facilities and eliminating various positions in operations and general and administrative areas.
In connection with the restructuring plans, the Company recognized restructuring and other expenses of $4.5 million during the year ended December 31, 2021. This included facility exit and other related costs of $3.9 million and employee termination benefits of $0.6 million in 2021. The Company had no accrued severance expense related to the restructuring plans as of both December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022.
Termination benefits are payable when an employee is involuntarily terminated, or whenever an employee accepts voluntary termination in exchange for termination benefits. One-time involuntary termination benefits are recognized as a liability when the termination plan meets certain criteria and has been communicated to employees. If employees are required to render future service in order to receive these one-time termination benefits, the liability is recognized ratably over the future service period.
Warrant Liabilities—The Company accounts for the Private Warrants in accordance with ASC Topic 815, “Derivatives and Hedging.” Under the guidance contained in ASC Topic 815-40, the Private Warrants do not meet the criteria for equity treatment and must be recorded as liabilities. Accordingly, the Company classifies the Private Warrants as liabilities at their fair value and adjusts the warrants to fair value at each reporting period. The liability is subject to re-measurement at each balance sheet date, and any change in fair value is recognized in the Company’s statement of operations.
Based on the views expressed in the SEC’s Staff Statement of April 12, 2021 in which the SEC staff clarified its interpretations of certain generally accepted accounting principles related to certain terms common in warrants issued by Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (“SPACs”), the Company determined that the Private Warrants should be treated as derivative liabilities rather than as components of equity, as previously presented as of December 31, 2020. Accordingly, the Company recorded out of period adjustments at January 1, 2021 to reclassify warrant liabilities of $8.1 million and transaction costs incurred by Act II of $1.1 million related to the issuance of the Private Warrants. Additionally, during the first quarter of 2021, the Company recognized the cumulative effect of the error on prior periods by recording a $1.2 million gain in the Statement of Operations to reflect the cumulative decrease in the fair value of the Private Warrants from the date of issuance through December 31, 2020. The Company concluded that this misstatement was not material to the previously filed financial statements.
Accounting Standards Adopted in the Current Year—The Company qualifies as an emerging growth company (an “EGC”) and as such, has elected the extended transition period for complying with certain new or revised accounting pronouncements. During the extended transition period, the Company is not subject to certain new or revised accounting standards applicable to public companies. The accounting pronouncements pending adoption below reflect effective dates for the Company as an EGC with the extended transition period.
In June 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) 2016-13, “Financial Instruments - Credit Losses (Topic 326).” The standard requires entities to estimate losses on financial assets measured at amortized cost, including trade receivables, debt securities and loans, using an expected credit loss model. The expected credit loss model should consider reasonable and supportable forecasts in addition to the previously considered past events and current conditions. This guidance also includes enhanced requirements for disclosures related to credit loss estimates. Entities must apply the standard provision as a cumulative-effect adjustment to retained earnings as of the beginning of the first reporting period in which the guidance is effective. The Company adopted this standard on January 1, 2023. The adoption of this standard did not have a material impact on the Company’s consolidated financial statements and related disclosures and a cumulative-effect adjustment was not deemed necessary.
Accounting Standards Not Yet Adopted—In November 2023, the FASB issued ASU 2023-07, “Segment Reporting (Topic 280): Improvements to Reportable Segment Disclosures”. The standard expands segment disclosure requirements for reportable segments, primarily through enhanced disclosures about significant segment expenses. The standard is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2023, and interim periods within fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2024. Early adoption is permitted. The Company is currently evaluating the impact of adopting ASU 2023-07 on its consolidated financial statement disclosures.
In December 2023, the FASB issued ASU 2023-09, “Income Taxes (Topic 740): Improvements to Income Tax Disclosures”. The standard requires enhanced disclosures and greater disaggregation of information related to the effective tax rate reconciliation and income taxes paid. The standard is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2024. Early adoption is permitted. The Company is currently evaluating the impact of adopting ASU 2023-09 on its consolidated financial statement disclosures.