Cracker Barrel signs licensing deal with John Morrell

Multi-year agreement aims to boost brand awareness

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has signed a licensing agreement with a unit of Smithfield Foods to take its brand into a range of grocery stores and mass merchandisers.

The multi-year agreement with John Morrell Food Group won't pay immediate financial dividends in 2013, but Cracker Barrel officials say the move will expose their company brand to more consumers and potentially add to profits in the future.

“We are pleased to partner with the John Morrell Food Group, a leader in consumer meat products with an outstanding reputation for quality and service,” said President and CEO Sandy Cochran. “We welcome this opportunity to extend our brand beyond our physical stores, which is one component of our strategic plan which also includes enhancing our operating core, and expanding our footprint by adding additional stores.”

News of the John Morrell deal comes two days before Cracker Barrel shareholders will vote on whether to give Sardar Biglari, the CEO of the parent of Steak 'n Shake and the owner of almost 18 percent of Cracker Barrel shares, a presence on the company's board. It also comes almost a year to the day after Biglari called on Cochran and her team to explore licensing deals as a way to capitalize on Cracker Barrel's name recognition.