Adding Oxo to its stock in the grocery cupboard completes Premier Foods biggest acquisition to date. Premier Foods already owns Branston Pickle, Lloyd Grossman’s sauces and Fray Bentos tinned meat pies. The latest deal costing £460 million funded by a £450 million rights issue, will effectively double Premier Foods’ issued capital base, and further acquisitions are not ruled out.
Adding Oxo to its stock in the grocery cupboard completes Premier Foods biggest acquisition to date. Premier Foods already owns Branston Pickle, Lloyd Grossman’s sauces and Fray Bentos tinned meat pies. The latest deal costing £460 million funded by a £450 million rights issue, will effectively double Premier Foods’ issued capital base, and further acquisitions are not ruled out. The latest aggrandisement takes over Campbell Soup Company’s UK and Irish business and includes Batchelor Soups and Homepride flour. Premier Foods also owns “names” such as Ambrosia creamed rice, Angel Delight desserts and Smash mashed potato. Further bids may be resumed attempts at adding the UK operations of United Biscuits, the McVitie’s and KP Nuts maker. Premier had previously failed to join a consortium, led by Kraft, the American food group, “aimed at breaking up United Biscuit” (The Times, 13 July 2006). Premier Foods will be acquiring 3 factories in Britain and one in the Republic of Ireland.
Premier Foods has been living down a colourful spot of trouble with untoward residues of a Sudan Red dye in some of its food product, but has been vigorously increasing its portfolio of investments in the food sector, as the diary of further recent dealings shows
• 20 July 2004. Premier Foods, owner of the Typhoo tea, Branston pickle, Sun-Pat peanut butter, and Hartley’s jam brands, lists on London Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of about £540 million
• 31 October 2005. Buys Cauldron meals and snacks brands for £27 million
• 09 December. Buys Bird’s custard for £70 million
• 06 June 2006. Buys the Quorn meat-substitute brand for £172 million
• 13 October 2005. Sells Typhoo tea for £80 million
• 17 October 2005. Sells Dutch-based Jonker Frits vegetable business thought to be worth £17.3 million
The foregoing calendar of events was produced by the Times.
The Sunday Times (16 July 2006) adds further spice to the goings-on. It describes Robert Schofield, “boss of Branston pickle owner Premier Foods, is eyeing a mouthwatering deal that would see him crowned the unofficial King of the British Larder”. He has joined forces with Premier’s former backers, the private equity group, Lion Capital, to table a £1 billion bid for United Biscuits, the privately-owned snacks group. “If successful, the deal would allow Schofield to seize control of brands such as Penguin biscuits, Jaffa cakes, and KP Nuts. Lion would become the owner of United assets such as Hula Hoops and McCoy’s, while NPM Capital, a Dutch private-equity, would buy United’s brands in northern Europe. Premier and NPM were allied to Kraft, the American food giant, which is a minority shareholder in United. Last week, though, Kraft struck a separate deal, worth £575 million, to take control of United’s southern European business”. The expansion “comes at a time when many British food manufacturers are under pressure from supermarkets and rising costs”.
Northern Foods, the owner of Fox’s biscuits and Goodfella's pizzas is selling off some of its “worst-performing operations” and Unilever is expecting a £1billion windfall from the sale of its European frozen foods arm”, adds the Sunday Times.
All these Monopoly-style junketings must concern the customer – especially the poor, bloody infantry, who harbour interests in products, claims, and labelling that may include junk foods, school meals, organic, fair-trade, GM, meat- and dairy-frees, welfare (in all its many aspects), and not to mention the population who describe themselves as veggies in various hues of green. Will the takeovers stimulate enterprise in the markets serving such special interests?
That hope has received what might be seen as a rebuff as “Ben and Jerry’s, the self-styled ‘all natural’ icecream manufacturer, has broken ranks with food giant Unilever amid controversy about GM icecream”. The Independent on Sunday (IOS 16 July 2006) attributes the break to “concerns” over the risk to health from a synthetically-produced “anti-freeze” protein, using a GM process that Unilever is trying to get approved in the UK”. The company is owned by Unilever, as are Walls and Birds Eye. Unilever has described the ingredient as an “exciting new technology that has the potential benefits for icecream, including the possibility of increased fruit content and lower fat content”. Unilever perceives “some consumer benefit”, but researchers from the Independent Science Panel have warned the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the Unilever submission, like some others, will require long term testing before full approval can be granted by the FSA’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes. For the moment the ACNP has to decide whether to allow the application to go to the EU for approval.
The IOS states that “this comes as the biotech industry is taking advantage of free-trade rules to attempt to break into the European market, with dozens of applications to either grow or import GM produce such as rice, potato, maize and sugar beet”.
The portfolio of investments in VEGA’s book of estimable consumables is based on a different set of values, bringing diversity and innovation into food and diets north of the olive line in northern Europe. Here be golden opportunities for elements in the food and publishing industries to invest their talents in exemplifications of the Portfolio. Please apply to us for further information and read our manifesto A New Kinder Farming, whether you are a food producer, manufacturer, server, or canny consumer. Opportunities for attractive veggie initiatives for proven Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming are being lost or grievously undermined.