Sunday, April 16, 2006

Nestlé to buy Linda McCartney

Swiss food giant Nestlé is preparing to buy Linda McCartney, the vegetarian frozen foods business from Heinz. Nestlé owns 50.1% of Israel’s Osem, whose subsidiary Tivall is understood to be readying an offer for Linda McCartney. Tivall already sells similar products as Linda McCartney, like vegetarian sausages and burgers, to British supermarkets Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, and Tesco.A Heinz spokesperson would not comment on any specific approach being made for Linda McCartney, but said: “We continue to explore options to maximise the value of the [frozen food] business.”A source, however, stated that a month ago Heinz had stopped the £200m (E289m, $350m) sale of its frozen food business, which also includes Weight Watchers, because private equity and trade bids came in too low. The source added that some of the periphery frozen food brands, including Linda McCartney, would be sold regardless. The late Linda McCartney, who was married to Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, created her own choice of vegetarian frozen meals in 1991. Heinz acquired the brand in 1999 when it bought the frozen food and chilled business of United Biscuits, which makes Jaffa Cakes and McVitie’s biscuits.Heinz wants to continue to add value to the frozen food assets it intends to keep, by growing them to a position for an eventual sale, sources told The Business. But because consumers have been buying more chilled, ready-prepared microwave meals – in the belief that they are healthier than frozen – the frozen food businesses has suffered declining revenues. Revenues dropped 13% last year for Unilever’s Birds Eye frozen meals division. Unilever is currently selling Birds Eye.


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