Unilever sells pasta sauce brand Ragu to Japanese company for $2.15bn
Unilever is selling its North American pasta sauces business under the Ragu and Bertolli brands to Mizkan Group of Japan for $2.15bn. The British-Dutch company aims to focus on higher-margin personal care products, particularly in emerging markets. In April, Unilever, whose brands include Vaseline skin care products, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Lipton tea, said it was conducting a strategic review of its North American pasta sauces 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.” The sale includes a sauce processing and packaging facility in Owensboro, Kentucky, and a tomato processing facility in Stockton, California. Unilever is keeping the sales rights to Ragu and Bertolli in Europe. Ragu and Bertolli have annual sales of more than £400m, Unilever said. The deal, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of next month. Unilever sold its Wish-Bone salad dressing and Skippy peanut butter brands last year. The deal is the latest acquisition for Mizkan, the 210-year-old privately held maker of vinegar, seasonings, cooking wine, dressings and other condiments. Mizkan acquired Border Foods, a processor of jalapeño peppers, in 2011, and the British food brands Sarson’s, Haywards and Dufrais last year. Mizkan is diversifying its business from the Japanese market. “This transaction represents an important milestone in our global expansion strategy,” Kazuhide Nakano, Mizkan’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We are confident that this transaction allows us to further achieve our objectives of diversification and expansion of our international footprint.” Unilever’s share price went down by 0.3 per cent to £26.87 in early trading in London.