Mizkan Group to acquire Ragu, Bertolli from Unilever

by Keith Nunes
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TOKYO – The Mizkan Group has entered into an agreement with Unilever, London, to acquire the Ragu and Bertolli sauce businesses for approximately $2.15 billion. The agreement includes the sale of a sauce processing and packaging plant in Owensboro, Ky., and a tomato processing facility in Stockton, Calif.

The Mizkan Group is a manufacturer of vinegars, sauces, cooking wines and seasonings. The company has U.S. offices in Mount Prospect, Ill.

Mizkan said the acquisition will allow it to develop a more balanced global operation by diversifying away from a focus on the Japanese market and enhance the company’s focus on its North American branded business through the addition of brands with such broad name recognition.

“This transaction represents an important milestone in our global expansion strategy,” said Kazuhide Nakano, chairman and chief executive officer of Mizkan Holdings Co. “We are confident that this transaction allows us to further achieve our objectives of diversification and expansion of our international footprint.”

The Ragu and Bertolli brand portfolio is the single largest branded pasta sauce producer and distributor in the United States, according to Mizkan. Ragu is the No. 1 brand across all key consumer metrics with a diversified product range and broad distribution channels, and Bertolli has the second largest market share in the premium price tier.

“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,” said Kees Kruyhoff, president of Unilever North America. “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 transaction is expected to be completed by the end of June 2014.
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