Unilever: Ragu, Bertolli Pasta Sauce Brands Sold in $2.15B Deal

Friday, 23 May 2014 11:55 AM

By Ken Mandel

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Unilever PLC has agreed to sell its Ragu and Bertolli pasta brands to Japan's Mizkan Group in a $2.15 billion deal that's part of the British-Dutch company's continued effort to reform its North American strategy.

The move is Unilever's latest effort to concentrate on personal-care products, which generate higher profit margins, The Associated Press reported. In April, the company said it would conduct a strategic review of its North American pasta sauce business and its Slim-Fast weight-loss brand.

"This sale represents one of the final steps in reshaping our portfolio in North America to deliver sustainable growth for Unilever, and enables us to sharpen our focus within our foods business," Kees Kruythoff, the president of Unilever North America, said in a statement. "The Ragu and Bertolli business leads the pasta sauce category in the United States, and we believe that the potential of both brands can be fully realized with Mizkan."

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Unilever has more than 400 brands, 14 of which generate more than $1 billion in sales per year, including Vaseline, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and Lipton, according to the company's website. The company said that Ragu and Bertolli generate more than $600 million in annual sales.

The sale, which is expected to close by the end of June, includes a sauce processing and packaging facility in Owensboro, Kentucky, and a tomato processing facility in Stockton, California, though Unilever maintains the right to sell the brands in Europe.

In March 2013, Unilever sold its global Skippy business to Hormel Foods for a total cash consideration of about $700 million, according to its website.

Five months later, the company shed its Wish-Bone and Western dressings brands to Pinnacle Foods Inc. for about $580 million. Pinnacle also owns the Birds Eye and Duncan Hines brands.

Meanwhile, privately held Mizkan has been adding to its line of vinegar, seasonings, cooking wine, dressings, and other condiments. The company bought jalapeƱo pepper maker Border Foods in May 2011, and Sarson’s Vinegar from Premier Foods in 2012, according to The Telegraph.

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