The Department of Justice announced that Stone Canyon will divest their entire evaporated salt business in order to proceed with their proposed acquisition of Morton Salt, among other assets. The Department stated that without the divestiture, the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in the sale of several types of evaporated salt, including round-can table salt, pharmaceutical-grade salt, and bulk evaporated salt.
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, the Department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive harm alleged in the complaint.
“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. “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.”
According to the complaint, Morton and SCIH’s wholly-owned subsidiary, US Salt, are two of only three producers that manufacture and distribute round-can table salt in the United States. Morton is the largest branded supplier of this pantry staple in the United States, and US Salt is the largest supplier of private-label round-can table salt in the United States. The complaint also alleges that Morton and US Salt are the only firms producing pharmaceutical-grade salt in the United States and Canada. Pharmaceutical-grade salt is a critical ingredient for dialysis treatment, intravenous saline solution, and other medical products that must meet stringent purity standards.
The complaint further alleges that Morton and US Salt are two of only three major suppliers that manufacture and distribute bulk evaporated salt in the northeastern United States. Bulk evaporated salt is used in various industries including food processing and chemical manufacturing to produce essential everyday items such as processed foods, disinfectants, soap, and bleach. The complaint alleges that the merger would eliminate competition between Morton and US Salt for all of these evaporated salt products, likely leading to higher prices, reduced supply availability, lower quality products, and longer delivery times.