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Lebanon, Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. (CBRL - Snapshot Report) recently joined forces with the John Morrell Food Group by inking a multi-year licensing deal to make its product categories available to customers in new retail channels. The deal is in line with Cracker Barrel’s strategic goal of expanding outside its physical stores through licensing deals and spreading online presence.

John Morrell Food Group is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc. – a global meat producer. It offers various national and regional brands such as Armour, Eckrich, John Morrell, Curly's, Patrick Cudahy, Carando and Healthy Ones. The company is a renowned premium-quality meat products provider in the U.S.

As per the deal, both the companies will develop lines of deli and meat such as bacon, luncheon meats, summer sausages and jerky. The products will be launched on an extensive platform in various forms of retail outlets including grocery and club stores and mass merchandisers. The high-quality appetizing products mainly target regular shoppers.

Cracker Barrel remains focused on shareholder value enhancement and ensuring the company’s growth in the long term, based on three strategies — core business expansion, unit growth and brand extension. Accordingly, the company has been planning several initiatives such as media spending, refined menu and pricing strategies and improved restaurant operations and services to drive traffic and sales.

Established in 1969, Cracker Barrel operates a chain of combined restaurant and gift stores in the U.S. The company reported fourth-quarter 2012 adjusted earnings of $1.20 per share, comfortably beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.29 and exceeding the prior-year earnings of $1.01. At the end of the quarter, Cracker Barrel operates around 621 company-owned locations across 42 states.

We have a long-term Neutral recommendation on Cracker Barrel. Also, it carries a short-term Zacks#3 Rank (Hold). One of its competitors — Panera Bread Co. (PNRA - Analyst Report) - carries a short-term Zacks#2 Rank (Buy).

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