Hostess Brands, Inc. (TWNK) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

TWNK earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2018.

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Hostess Brands, Inc.  (NASDAQ:TWNK)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Feb. 27, 2019, 4:30 p.m. ET

Contents:

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to Hostess Brands' Fourth Quarter 2018 Earnings Conference Call.

At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I'd now like to turn the conference over to your host, Katie Turner.

Katie Turner -- Investor Relations

Thank you. Good afternoon and welcome to Hostess Brands' fourth quarter and full year 2018 earnings conference call. By now, everyone should have access to the earnings release for the period ended December 31, 2018 that went out this afternoon at approximately 4:05 PM Eastern Time. The press release and an updated Investor Presentation are available on Hostess' website at www.hostessbrands.com. This call is being webcast and a replay will be available on the Company's website.

Hostess would like to remind you that today's discussion will include a number of forward looking statements. If you refer to Hostess's earnings release as well as the company's most recent SEC filings, you will see a discussion of the factors that could cause the Company's actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements. Please remember the Company undertakes no obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements.

The Company will make a number of references to non-GAAP financial measures. The Company believes these measures provide investors with useful perspective on the underlying growth trends of the business and has included in its earnings release a full reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measures to the most comparable GAAP measures.

And with that, I would like to turn the call over to Hostess Brands' President and CEO, Andy Callahan.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Katie. Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today. I'll begin our discussion with a brief overview of our fourth quarter business highlights and touch on our 2019 pillars for growth. Then Tom Peterson, our CFO will provide greater detail on our financial results. Finally, we'll be happy to take your questions.

We ended 2018 in a position of strength with a deeper and broader foundation from which we will generate sustainable profitable growth. We have executed a number of initiatives to further solidify a leading market position in the Sweet Baked Goods category by strengthening our core Hostess branded product offerings, expanding into adjacent categories through innovation and cultivating key partnerships with our customers.

We have sharpened our fundamentals with category and market data, added improved capabilities across our organization to better position us for growth and integrated and transformed Cloverhill, which is fueling better access and capability and Breakfast. We believe these efforts better position us to grow market share and importantly grow the Sweet Baked Goods category going forward.

In addition, we are adding key personnel to our team in important areas of our business from operations, marketing and human resources to support our ambitions. We will continuously look at expertise to the organization in 2019. Across our team, we are working together to build a high performance-based culture to consistently win with all stakeholders.

We participate in a growing snack segment with iconic brands and loyal consumers. To support this growth, Hostess has developed a scalable infrastructure with an efficient operating model, differentiated capabilities that support collaborative customer partnerships, robust innovation and significant cash flow, that we believe sets us apart from our peers and positions Hostess to create value for all stakeholders.

We are excited to be celebrating Hostess 100th year anniversary in 2019. At Hostess, we have iconic brands, which have been built over the last 100 years combined with our entrepreneurial spirit, energy and enthusiasms of today. This is a unique whipped (ph) mix and why I'm confident our best years are ahead. I would like to thank our dedicated team for their continuous efforts as we execute on our strategic priorities.

In our dynamic operating environment, we delivered on our latest financial commitments, while building a stronger foundation for future growth. In the fourth quarter, we grew our consolidated net sales, point of sale and market share. In addition, through our disciplined operational and integration efforts, the Cloverhill business completed the installation of core capital improvements setting us up for accretive revenue and EBITDA growth for years to come, a great corporate milestone. In 2019, we expect the Cloverhill business profitability to continue to improve as the year progresses.

In particular, a few key fourth quarter highlights. Point of sale increased 4% and market share improved 44 basis points to 17.4%, both primarily driven by the Cloverhill business. Net revenue increased nearly 10% to approximately $215 million. This was similarly driven by the Cloverhill business, partially offset by slightly lower organic net revenue. We launched new innovation including a suite of Hostess branded breakfast items at Totally Nutty, a premium peanut butter wafer bar. Our adjusted gross profit margin was 34.3%.

To partially offset inflation, we executed multifaceted pricing and merchandising actions, which we expect to begin taking hold during Q1 of 2019 and our adjusted EBITDA of $51.4 million translates to an adjusted EBITDA margin of 23.9%. Importantly, we completed substantial capital improvements in the fourth quarter that we believe will help increase efficiency and profitability into 2019.

Going forward, we have a robust plan to drive sustainable, profitable growth in 2019 and this plant is grounded in five pillars: First, grow the core; second, grow through innovation; third, improve agility and efficiency; fourth, cultivate talent and capabilities; and fifth, leverage our strong cash flow.

First, grow the core. Our team is emphasizing the approximate mix of products, including proactive evaluation of SKUs to optimize our portfolio, consumer preference and overall growth. Collaborative customer relationships play an important role in these efforts and I am pleased with our progress in strengthening Hostess' partnership across all sales channels in 2018 and I'm excited about the opportunities we have to grow our Hostess partner program in 2019. At Hostess, we strive to be an indispensable partner to our customers and will work daily to achieve that through development of highly incremental and profitable programs that are mutually beneficial and focused on growth.

Our second pillar is grow through innovation. We expect to accomplish this through innovation of our core premium products and via new adjacent categories including, for example, the expansion of our Breakfast platform. The Breakfast segment is an important innovation platform for us and we believe Hostess fair share development presents an incremental point of sale opportunity of over $100 million. We are pleased with the customer acceptance based on the launch of Hostess breakfast products thus far and expect the growth of these products to increase as we progress through 2019 and customers complete product resets.

Our core innovation emphasizes new flavors of iconic products to leverage the brand's power and expand our offerings. We are also focusing our energy on premium innovation to attract new consumers at higher price points and expanding Hostess brand into new consumer segments, which drive incremental growth. Hostess Totally Nutty peanut butter wafer bars and our new Hostess Danish are great examples of this. We believe breakfast and premium innovation such as Bakery Petites are key platforms for growth over the next few years. They are both highly incremental to our business and extendable. Going forward, Hostess will continue to delight consumers in the Sweet Baked goods category through our leading innovation.

Our third pillar is to improve through agility and efficiency. In 2018, we implemented meaningful efficiencies, demonstrated through the integration and transformation of Cloverhill. Additionally, we adjusted pricing and merchandising programs and executed our distribution and manufacturing opportunities during the year. We expect these efforts to mitigate the impact of transportation and raw material increases, while maintaining growth. As we move into 2019, we have a specific set of opportunities we are emphasizing to generate additional efficiencies and improvements to help enhance our operations. These benefits and the focus on an agile and efficient way of working will fuel reinvestment in consumer-driven growth.

Our fourth pillar is to cultivate talent and capabilities. We have strategically added key personnel to our team in areas of our business from operations, marketing and human resources, which all support our growth. We continuously look to add expertise in 2019 to build best-in-class and fully integrated market analytics, innovation and marketing functions. It is important to not only have the right team to deliver on our pillars, but also provide that team consumer and market analytics to proactively build the business and organization. We are working together to continue to advance on our wonderful high performance culture to win with our valued customers, consumers and suppliers as we generate value.

And our fifth pillar is to leverage strong cash flow. We enter 2019 with a strong cash position. In 2018, we generated operating cash flow of $143.7 million and we expect 2019 cash flow will allow us the flexibility to pursue a range of strategic options. We will continuously look to reinvest in our business, deleverage and pursue potential strategic acquisitions while effectively managing our capital structure.

Given our expected EBITDA growth and inherent strong cash flow generation, absent any significant business transactions, we expect our leverage to decline meaningfully through 2019, particularly as we reduce the spend associated with the Cloverhill business transformation.

We are excited about our opportunities to generate significant profitable growth and look forward to providing you with updates as we progress through the year. Our team has done a tremendous amount of work to develop new capabilities and sharpen the fundamentals of our business in a short period of time. We have the right team in place to execute on our strategic priorities and win with consumers and customers. We look forward to creating value for our shareholders for many years to come.

Now I will turn it over to Tom to go through the details of the quarter's results.

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Andy. I will now review our fourth quarter and full year 2018 financial performance and other data from today's release. Net revenue for the quarter was $214.8 million, a 9.5% or $18.6 million increase from 2017's revenue of $196.2 million. The Cloverhill business, which was acquired in February of 2018, contributed $20 million of incremental revenue offset by slightly lower organic revenue.

We generated $68.8 million of gross profit for the fourth quarter of 2018 and gross margin was 32%. Adjusted gross profit was $73.8 million or 34.3% of net revenue compared to 41.2% of net revenue in the fourth quarter of 2017. The decline in adjusted gross margin was primarily due to the shift in mix of revenue to include the recently acquired non-Hostess branded products, which resulted in a 390 basis point decline in margins. Also higher inflationary pressures and customer allowances resulted in a 320 basis point decrease in adjusted gross margin.

As Andy mentioned, significant capital projects installed in the fourth quarter are expected to be instrumental in further increasing the efficiency and profitability of our bakery operations into 2019. In addition, we executed a multifaceted approach to pricing and merchandising late in the fourth quarter to partially offset inflation while preserving our growth potential.

Our effective tax rate was 18.2% compared to 32.2% in the prior year, excluding the benefit of tax reform. Adjusted EPS was $0.17 per share, flat as compared with the fourth quarter of 2017. Our operating cash flow for 2018 was $143.7 million compared to $163.7 million last year. Our CapEx was $48.4 million mainly for improvements at the Cloverhill business along with the new Cake Line we installed in Columbus, Georgia. We had cash and cash equivalents of $146.4 million and net debt of $841.6 million as of December 31. This left us a leverage ratio of 4.5 times.

In terms of our outlook for 2019, we expect organic revenue to continue to grow well above the Sweet Baked Goods category driven by our new innovation including Hostess branded breakfast and other core innovation as well as expanded distribution and improved merchandising execution over the course of the year. As a result, we expect Q2 and Q3 to be our highest revenue quarter -- contributions for the year. From a profitability perspective, we expect adjusted EBITDA to be in the range of $200 million to $210 million and adjusted EPS to be in the range of $0.57 to $0.62 per share, each of these primarily driven by the execution of the multifaceted pricing and merchandising programs and achievement of operating efficiencies.

Our adjusted EBITDA growth is expected to build sequentially throughout 2019. In 2019 we also expect to incur approximately $42 million in interest expense, $45 million of depreciation and amortization and $9 million of share-based compensation. Absent any significant transactions or optional debt reductions, we anticipate to end the year with a debt leverage ratio between 3.5 and 3.7 times, driven by strong operating cash flows of $150 million to $160 million. We expect capital expenditures of approximately $30 million to $35 million for the year and a tax rate of 21% to 22%.

I'll now turn it over to Andy for his closing remarks.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Tom. In closing, we had a solid end to 2018. We executed on the plan to advance our business in a dynamic and challenging operating environment. These efforts now position Hostess better than ever before to win with both customers and consumers. We are fortunate to have a century-old iconic brand with products that resonate with today's consumers in growing snack categories. We have sharpened our fundamentals and added key talent and capabilities across our organization. The investments we are making and our operating approach grounded in our 5 pillars will fuel growth, well above the Sweet Baked Goods category, drive highly accretive revenue and profitability and create value for our shareholders.

And with that, Tom and I are available for questions.


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Questions and Answers:

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Our first question comes from the line of Ken Goldman with JPMorgan. Please proceed with your question.

Ken Goldman -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Okay. Excuse me. Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for taking the question. Two for me, you've guided to the Chicago Bakery, generating $20 million to $25 million of EBITDA in 2020. Is that still a reasonable target and I know you don't want to give specific numbers on 2019, but if you can give us some kind of parameters for where you expect maybe the run rate at the end of the year to be -- that would be very helpful in terms of EBITDA.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thanks, Ken. The run rate -- while we're not breaking it out for '19 or going forward, the run rate EBITDA result continues to be ahead of our acquisition economics and we continue to be excited about the progress we've made a Cloverhill.

Ken Goldman -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Okay. And the 2020 number is at least still a base, where you're not pulling back on that in the lower. It sounds like it's -- if anything, it's slightly above that in your goal.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Correct, we're not pulling back from anything.

Ken Goldman -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Okay. And then I wanted to ask about pricing. I thought I heard you say and maybe I misheard that pricing really hasn't fully come through and I know that there were some delays in -- not delays, but sort of some offsets in terms of pricing that was promised and maybe some deal backs, but I had hoped that maybe the pricing would have started by now and it sounds like maybe it's still quite hasn't. Did I hear that right and if I did, is there anything delayed or is it sort of on-track to what you expect that to be in terms of timing?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, Ken, I'll just add, we -- as you know and we said last quarter, we implemented a multifaceted pricing. So this pricing was part of it. We then adjusted some other components of it, including some weight(ph)out and other things and the teams executed that as we had planned. We've adjusted all of our list pricing as planned and those things are flowing through in the quarter.

Ken Goldman -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

So no delays then

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

In Q1, we did not delay the execution, no.

Ken Goldman -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Great, thank you so much.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Ken.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Steve Strycula with UBS. Please proceed with your question.

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

Hi, good afternoon. So quick question for me to follow-up from Ken, from a historical sense for 2018, did you disclose what the EBITDA drag was for the year, not asking for a forward-looking indicator, but at least for historical, that'll be helpful.

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, we didn't -- we put it in the margins, but it was roughly $14 million

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then as you exited 4Q, the gross margin rate was clearly improving as we moved throughout calendar '18. Can you help us think qualitatively through some of the puts and takes as we move through 2019, whether as how pricing flows in, the allowance that they call out in 4Q, transport cost raw materials, anything just directionally to help us think through it. Thank you.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So yeah, thanks, Steve. Our 2019 guide is really -- is really driven by our growth in breakfast, our improved merchandising, our price increase, the operating efficiencies and a profitable expectation for Cloverhill for 2019 and also reinvesting in the consumer. We believe that will improve through the year as we roll out our merchandising in improved merchandising programs with customers as we -- as Cloverhill continues to gain its operating efficiencies as we roll through the price increases. So through the year, it will continue to improve.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Brian Holland with Consumer Edge Research. Please proceed with your question.

Brian Holland -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Yeah, thanks. Good evening, gentlemen. First question is housekeeping, can you give us a sense of what organic growth in Sweet Baked Goods sort of ex your largest customer, where you had the merchandising headwind look like in the quarter, any idea?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We're not trying to break that out. Brian. What's really important to us is how I feel going forward and I feel great about our relationships across all customers going forward in all channels. And our growth was -- it was slightly behind in total was offset by really strong growth in Cloverhill and I expect, given the partnerships we have and the plans we have, to have a more even growth contribution across the board in 2019.

Brian Holland -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough. And as I look out and obviously part of this outlook, well above the category is tied to some merchandising component. So I'm just -- I'm just curious what kind of line of sight you have there and how broad based that is? Is this a situation where maybe you're making up for lack of display support in certain places elsewhere or are you getting display support back where you've lost it, where you lost it in 2018?

And then if I could just tack on one more on the In-Store Bakery, saw a nice inflection there. Just curious if there's anything to that that we should be thinking about long-term or is that really just a volatile business quarter-to-quarter and not much to read in there. Thank you.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Let me take ISP first. Brian, thanks for both of those questions. ISP had a good quarter and they were up a little over half a percent on the revenue side and they implemented some nice seasonal programs within there tied to some new innovation and those take some time to sell until the team has done a nice job. I think that's repeatable and I expect to see ongoing some good growth going forward on that business.

And then back to your other question across the broader business. I expect to see growth in three real areas as we move forward. I expect to see growth on our base core business, driven by improved merchandising and as Tom mentioned, I see that improving throughout the year given the line of sight I have with our partnerships in the program, we developed across all of our channels. I expect to see growth from the platform of Breakfast that we're launching and we're getting early indications are positive. We're already working on a pipeline of innovation news within that to fuel it. It's a meaningful segment, which were underdeveloped and as we mentioned in our prepared remarks -- that there's $100 million of POS available for us to bring our brand, bring renovation and bring our capabilities that we acquired within the Cloverhill acquisition to bear there.

And then thirdly, we're working on looking at our value portfolio, which through the Cloverhill acquisition given access some channels, but also combining some of those capabilities with our Dolly brand. We're doing a nice job and the sales team and Andy Jacobs team are doing a nice job of driving and selling in that platform for us. So I believe as we go in, we have really good focus on our growth initiatives, and I believe we'll see upside as we move throughout the year.

Brian Holland -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Appreciate it. Best of luck gentlemen.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Brian.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Bill Chappell with SunTrust. Please proceed with your question.

Bill Chappell -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Thanks, good afternoon. Andy, can you talk a little bit more, I'm just trying to get comfortable on the innovation side and when I say that, I understand your market share was hit by the issues at Walmart over the past year, but you didn't really hear a whole lot from the class of 2018 initiatives, be it single served donuts or cake loaves or I mean there are several other things out there that didn't seem to move the needle. And at the same point, we saw Bimbo seem to take a lot of share with what they're doing. So I'm just trying to understand how we get confidence with the class of '18 kind of new products and merchandising and within those still having a fair amount of momentum, how you can get that share back?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thanks for the question, Bill. We have a lot of respect for everybody who competes within this space, I think one of the great elements of competing in the Sweet Baked Goods category is that also view the consumption as highly expandable. If you bring a great item of new innovation, you could drive usage and you could drive penetration within the category. In some areas it's highly impulsive and in some areas, it has a very broad consumer choice set within the new states in which we compete.

With that being said, as we come out of -- into '19 and I look at within our Breakfast segment given our operating model, given our relationships with customers and given the rollout we have, which isn't just one item and in innovation, I feel good about the contribution that we have built into our plan. But like any innovation what we want to be is a very agile and efficient group. So we launched it. We look at how it's doing and we want to be really nimble and efficient in making sure that we can build a pipeline to drive growth.

So the platform this year is larger as we come out of some of the initiatives we had in 2018 and I feel good about the early results, but what we're going to do is continue to keep it close and continue to be very nimble to make sure that it continues to drive growth. Hostess and the team have a great legacy of being nimble in innovation and being prolific with it and we continue to keep that going forward.

Bill Chappell -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Okay. And then just back on the pricing I didn't -- is there expectation that it's across the board pricing within the category or is it more select items and I know that the industry leader, or the market -- the share leader in the category is actually value position. So does it even matter if they follow on pricing?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, the pricing was as we mentioned, we did a lot of research on the analytics and elasticities across our portfolio and we price the balance, recovery of the inflation in margin, but while maintaining growth and therefore we did price across select areas of the portfolio mostly around single-serve and then took other initiatives related to rolling out our Hostess Partnership program, some downsizing and some other initiatives across the rest of the portfolio.

So most of the list price increasing was within the single-serve and some areas within our value channel, which were already priced below value within some of the Cloverhill acquisition, some of those other portfolios, part of the portfolio. So it was focused, but it was driven by the analytics that we completed. So we can balance our growth and margin recovery.

Bill Chappell -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

I guess then just, was there a follow-on of pricing from competitors?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I can't comment on competitor pricing. I know what we did and so I don't know how pricing the competitors change or did not change anything they have within their list pricing.

Bill Chappell -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Bill.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Rob Dickerson with Deutsche Bank. Please proceed with your question.

Rob Dickerson -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Great, thank you. Yeah, so I just -- first question is just on the comment you made that maybe it was just in general, not a timeframe, but there you say there could be a $100 million point of sale opportunity in the breakfast channel or day part. I assuming that's just entirely prevent by Cloverhill, the new manufacturing, excuse me, that manufacturing capacity. So I guess the first question is, over what time period is that, is that just in general because you're looking at overall share and common normalized penetration rate one.

And then two, kind of more specifically in the near term, if I look at your EBITDA guidance for '19, which seems to be fairly good all things considered, but at the same time, we know that Cloverhill should be contributing to that EBITDA. So I guess yeah, first question is, what's the real opportunity and the timeframe off the $100 million point of sale for the business and then my second question is, do you expect the base business to grow EBITDA? Thanks.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, so the $100 million opportunity is a mathematical view of Breakfast and us developing our fair share within it. We expect to make meaningful progress and have good growth in 2019, but we're not going to achieve that fair share, that's a forward-looking view of the growth, but we feel good about the contribution of Breakfast in 2019 and we will continue to tweak and continue to innovate it. It's a segment of the business that we're going after a more meaningful way and we'll continue to go after it with this initial launch to follow on innovation and then I'll turn it to Tom to address the Cloverhill profitability.

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

So to confirm in the guide that we are expecting a profitable Cloverhill bakery in the guide this year and a turnaround from the negative results of 2018.

Rob Dickerson -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay. And then I guess quickly, just in terms of gross margin kind of vis-a-vis your comments Tom, I think you said maybe Q2 and Q3, would be a little bit more of a contribution for the full year. Is there a -- just given what's happened in '18 and given the mix component of Cloverhill, do you expect gross margin to get incrementally better as the year progresses one, and two, is just a quick comment on why are Q2 and Q3 stronger?

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

So that was -- primarily those notes were from a revenue standpoint, from the prepared remarks but, Q2 and Q3 are generally are stronger quarters and then we look at our merchandise -- our overall merchandising programs and that's where we expect. We do expect, as you asked, our gross margins to improve through the year and then as we continue to fill up Cloverhill and then we will -- we will continue to trade it up and we've done a number of things to trade it up over 2018 either from eliminating some unprofitable screws and then just changed around pricing for things that just didn't make sense pricing the value. We're continually evaluating those programs as we -- as we roll through 2019.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I feel really good given the magnitude of the transformation on Cloverhill of where we are sitting right here. The amount of transformation relative to the investment, the operational changes, the ability to be able to sell in the revenue out of that acquisition into new channels, really good and I expect the progress around efficiencies as Tom mentioned and the selling of the products to continue to improve as we go through the year.

Rob Dickerson -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay, super. Thanks so much.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Rob.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Pamela Kaufman with Morgan Stanley. Please proceed with your question.

Rose -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi, thanks for the question. This is actually Rose on for Pam. I just wanted to touch quickly on your comments regarding leverage. You mentioned you expect leverage to fall meaningfully throughout 2019. So how should we think about the cadence of debt pay down over the course of the year?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so we continue to review our capital structure and opportunistically take advantage of that. The leverage ratio will move down really ratably through the year and we'll decide what to do with our excess cash. We have -- we ended the year with a little over $145 million and we'll continue to review that this year as we pursue reinvestment in the business and various strategic avenues that we might consider.

Rose -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

If I could, just to follow up on that, regarding strategic avenues, are there any assets that you think would make sense from a portfolio perspective or any areas that you are under indexed to that you think you could expand into?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we're not going to comment on any specifics, I really think we have a terrific business model and a platform to expand upon just in general. So we're always looking for opportunities that help build on the platform that the team has built and the capabilities we have.

Rose -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. Appreciate it.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Michael King(ph)with CLK. Please proceed with your question.

Michael Gallo -- CL King -- Analyst

Michael Gallo of CLK. Congratulations on the good finish to the year. My question is sort of twofold. Andy, you've been there now for couple quarters. I think you noticed that there were some, some capabilities that when the company was strong and there were scenarios you thought could be improved when you started. I was wondering now when you look at where things are, where you still see some opportunity, where you've kind of improved some of those capabilities and what kind of capital projects outside of Cloverhill that we should think about for '19? Thanks.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the question. I am going to maybe answer it in a little different way then you asked it, if that's OK, but if I don't answer your question, let me know. I was able to join a company that had a tremendous foundation and a position of strength. We have a culture that's just action-oriented, entrepreneurial, focused on results and just really has a great pride of the business that they've built and I referred to them as the second founders as people on the team hear me say.

So as we move into the next phase, that next phase requires some sharpening in the next phase of capabilities to be able to get us there. So it's not a -- I would just answer in a different way as opposed to efficiency. It's the next phase and mindset and a culture that the team has, which I'm also very proud to just tell everybody, which is a continuous improvement mindset and that's where we are.

We are moving through the next mindset, the next phase of growth and we mentioned some of those in the prepared remarks where we built this great portfolio within the core and now we're sharpening some of the information within that core to make sure that we're more nimble in optimizing the growth and profitability of the portfolio we have when we went into pricing. We now have sharper insights and knowledge around the elasticity of our portfolio and knowhow where there is sensitivity to growth.

And when we moved into innovation, we did a lot of new great innovation, our platforms around LTOs and then tying into really consumer relevant usage occasions and expanding usage, which is why they're so incremental and now sharpening the need states in the platforms within consumers to drive growth within there and then looking at ways that we can directly communicate to consumers in a very smart, not an expensive way, but a very smart way to drive growth. So we're looking at sharpening both the information and the focus. So as we build into the next phase of growth and we leverage the differentiated platform we have, we do it in a way that allows -- it creates a sustainable model to be able to grow.

So it's the next phase of the evolution. We're investing in those to make sure that we continue to stay lean and agile as I mentioned in my prepared remarks. We continue to find those next avenues in growth because we're maniacally focused on continuing to grow our business. So hopefully that helps. That's where we're focused. I feel really good about the progress we have and I expect to make continued progress and continuous improved mindset as we move into '19 and beyond.

Michael Gallo -- CL King -- Analyst

That's helpful. And then follow-up questions for Tom and maybe I missed it in the prepared remarks, but what do you -- what's your expectation on logistics costs overall '19 over '18?

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

We didn't break it out specifically. We do expect them and have some inflation in our -- in our 2019 guide, but we didn't break it out specifically.

Michael Gallo -- CL King -- Analyst

Thank you.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Mike.

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Mike.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from the line of Alexis Borden with Citi. Please proceed with your question.

Alexis Borden -- Citi -- Analyst

Hi, thank you for the question. I'm kind of following up on the last question, in terms of inflation, just the overall inflation outlook. Obviously, you guys are hit pretty hard last year. Kind of what's the outlook going forward in '19, not just the transportation, but also kind of ingredients and kind of do you think that you're going to be able to cover the incremental inflation this year or is it still going to be a drag on 2019 somewhat?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, so, we see transportation in wages and of course as everybody in the industry has some sugar inflation and some corrugated. We made a good estimate of that. We didn't break it out separately. It will not be as substantial as 2018. We don't believe and we're working on efficiency programs that can keep up with our inflation.

Alexis Borden -- Citi -- Analyst

Thanks, that's helpful. And in terms of the price increase, obviously it's still early days and it's kind of maybe just come to market now, but we're already about two thirds of the way through the first quarter, is there any takeaways you have in terms of volume elasticity, are things relatively in line with your expectations or you still need to do a little bit more work to understand kind of how the pricing is kind of being accepted into the marketplace by these consumers?

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think it's too early. We do track it all the time. There is number of variables that happen as you mentioned here. It's the timing of when they get implemented. Some are a little bit higher and lower than what we expected. So it's a little bit early to get a good set, but we maniacally look at it, we track it. If anything, it's -- there is no -- there is no big surprises that pop out relative to elasticity too early, but we'll continue to monitor it. I think it's too early to make any conclusions or any adjustments to the execution that seems pursuant.

Alexis Borden -- Citi -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Steve Strycula with UBS. Please proceed with your question.

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

Hey guys, just couldn't get enough the first go around. So I have a quick question for you on follow-up on Chicago Bakery, it enters the comp base from a sweet baked goods calculation, the beginning of the first quarter -- into the first quarter of calendar '19. So I guess my question is can we expect after the CapEx spend that you did in the fourth quarter for the revenue, quarterly revenue run rate to step up from maybe $20 million per quarter to closer to $25 million. And then as a follow-up, should we expect that ex-Chicago Bakery that total Sweet Baked goods for you should grow in '19. Thank you.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So we bought the Cloverhill business in February of 2018. So, it will have -- it had two months last year in the same number. I think that the comp of '20, it will continue to grow the Cloverhill Big Texas and private label business will continue to grow throughout the year and we also expect Sweet Baked Goods ex Cloverhill to grow as well.

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

Very helpful, thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of the question and answer session. And I would like to turn the call back to management for closing remarks.

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. So, thank you so much. I just want to thank everybody for your interest in Hostess. The team has done a lot of work on focusing on our consumer, focus on growth and focus on building a platform that's going to build a sustainable growth model and shareholder value going forward. So we look forward to getting after it, we're focused on execution and focus on growing and look forward to giving you updates along the way. And with that, I'll turn it over to the moderator, but I think that closes out our call.

Operator

This concludes today's conference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.

Duration: 42 minutes

Call participants:

Katie Turner -- Investor Relations

Andrew P. Callahan -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thomas Peterson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Ken Goldman -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

Brian Holland -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Bill Chappell -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Rob Dickerson -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Rose -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Michael Gallo -- CL King -- Analyst

Alexis Borden -- Citi -- Analyst

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