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East Anglia: Premier Foods agrees £200m sale of Hartley’s jam business

09:59 23 August 2012

Premier Food

Premier Food's is selling a portfolio of brands including Hartley's

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

WELL-known breakfast table brands including Robertson’s marmalade, Hartley’s jam and Gales honey were today set for US ownership as part of a £200million takeover deal.

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Premier Foods, whose key brands include Hovis bread and Mr Kipling cakes, is selling its range of sweet spreads and jellies to Hain Celestial, the maker of natural and organic products including the Linda McCartney meat free range.

Other brands in the sale include Sun-Pat peanut butter and marmalade brands Frank Cooper and Keiller, while Hain will also acquire Premier’s Histon factory near Cambridge, where most of the products are made.

Combined with other recent sales such as vinegar brand Sarson’s and pickles business Haywards, Premier has now achieved £275million of the £330m disposal proceeds it has targeted by June 2014.

It is battling to reduce a debt pile that stood at £1.3billion in June, while simplifying the business in order to focus on a core portfolio of “power brands” that also includes Batchelors, Ambrosia, Oxo. Sharwoods, Loyd Grossman and Bisto

Hain, whose parent company owns New Covent Garden Soup Co, already has UK operations at Fakenham in Norfolk, where it mainly produces the Linda McCartney range of frozen ready meals. Its Luton head office produces 30million sandwiches per year for a leading UK retailer, including their organic range.

The £41m sale of the Haywards pickles and Sarsons and Dufrais vinegat brands, announced in June, saw Premier transfer its Middleton factory, near Manchester, to the purchasers, Japanese company Mizkan.

Two production lines at Premier’s Bury St Edmunds factory, in Mildenhall Road, are also involved in the production of Haywards pickled onions, piccallily and beetroot and the deal with Mizkan included an agreement for production to continue at the Bury site for a further 12 months.

Premier said that Haywards products represented an relative small part of operations at Bury and there were likely to be opportunities for staff to transfer to other brands. Any impact of jobs was “likely to be minimal”, he added.

However, there is also uncertainty over the future ownership of Premier’s sweet pickles business Branston, which accounts for a larger proportion of production at the Bury factory and does not feature among the group’s list of “power brands”.

Other Premier Foods products made in Bury include Loyd Grossman cooking sauces, together with own-label products for leading supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.

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