There's a growing interest in outdoor lifestyle brands on the part of consumers, spurring several strategic buyers to ink deals for specialty shops such as Bass Pro Group LLC, Finish Line Inc. (Nasdaq: FINL) and Kent International Inc. The trend may indicate that fitness purveyors will follow the path set by organic food companies and become highly contested targets among acquisitive companies.

With the better-for-you food trend still rolling on, observers expect to see WhiteWave Foods Co. and Boulder Brands Inc. as takeover targets in 2015, on the heels of General Mills buying Annie's Inc. An offshoot of that movement is the apparent landgrab of companies geared toward outdoor activities, staying in shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The most recent deal in the space was Confluence Outdoor's acquisition of Boardworks, a paddle board maker. Greenville, South Carolina-based Confluence, which was bought by PE firm J.H. Whitney Capital Partners LLC in 2014, owns eight paddle sports brands: Adventure Technology, Bomber Gear, Dagger Kayaks, Harmony Gear, Mad River Canoe, Perception Kayaks, Wave Sport Kayaks and Wilderness Systems. Buying Boardworks allows Confluence to expand offerings to the West Coast.

In addition to paddle boards, Boardworks’ product line includes surf boards and other accessories under brand names, including Infinity, Badfish, Morrelli & Melvin, Hynson, Strive and Hansen.

Athlete's Performance Inc., which last year began doing business as Exos, was another company to close a deal in the space. In December, it purchased MediFit, a provider of fitness and wellness centers based in Forham Park, New Jersey. Exos, based in Phoenix, will fold MedFit into the company's more than 300 fitness locations.

Before that, Bass Pro scooped up Fishing Holdings LLC from Platinum Equity. The Springfield, Missouri, retailer of fishing and boating equipment - as well as hunting, camping, cooking and footwear - attained manufacturing capabilities for three major boat brands. They include the Ranger Boats, Stratos and Triton brands. Platinum bought Ranger Boats and Stratos in February 2010 from a bankruptcy auction.

The Running Specialty Group also announced a deal, picking up Run Colorado, a group of accessory shops and retail stores, based in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Running Specialty will operate 66 specialty running stores after the Run Colorado acquisition. The stores operate as the Running Company, Run On, Blue Mile, Roncker's Running Spot, Running Fit, VA Runner and Richmond RoadRunner.

Lastly, Stoneridge Cycle Ltd., a bicycle designer in Ontario, agreed to sell to Parsippany, New Jersey-based Kent International, which sells biking products through Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN). The company's brands include: BCA, Goodyear, Razor, Little MisMatched, Pinkalicious and X-Games.

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