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Wessanen to quit US to focus on Europe

By Sarah Hills , 24-Apr-2009

The multinational food corporation Royal Wessanen has announced plans to exit North America to concentrate on its European natural, organic and specialty food products as part of a strategic overhaul.

The Executive Board of the Netherlands-based company said this week that its strategy going forward will focus on growing its presence in the European natural, organic and specialty food markets through organic growth and acquisitions.

Wessanen had already announced in February plans to sell its US-based, non-carbonated drinks company called the American Beverage Corporation.

Now it is looking to exit all of its other North American businesses, which includes the branded businesses Panos and Liberty Richter, as well as the distributor of natural, organic, specialty, ethnic, and gourmet food products, Tree of Life North America.

A spokeswoman told FoodNavigator.com: “It is going to be our complete package of North American businesses.

“We have said for a long time that it has been very hard to see synergies between the North American businesses and the European businesses.

“I think this is a time when we need to focus and we see a lot of growth potential in Europe.

“We feel that especially with Tree of Life North America, our biggest subsidiary in North American, it will be better off this way.”

The spokeswoman would not comment when asked if these businesses were for sale.

Existing presence

Wessanen produces, markets and distributes natural and specialty food products in North America and Europe, with an emphasis on confectionery and soy products.

It states on its website that its mission is “to be the leading transatlantic marketing and distribution company for branded authentic health and premium taste foods”.

Its main brands on this side of the Atlantic include Bjorg – a range of soy and rice-based products - and Whole Earth, which offers a range of organic foods such as cereals and spreads. It also has a frozen food business.

The spokeswoman said Wessanen already has a strong presence in France, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, but would not comment on whether it would focus on any other European countries as part of its new strategy.

However, the company said in a statement that it “expects to provide more detail on its strategy later this year when it has concluded a strategic review of its European business”.

Change in reporting

Wessanen also announced that, in light of its new strategic focus, it is changing its European reporting segments with immediate effect.

Wessanen’s European businesses will now consist of Wessanen Europe (natural, organic and specialty food products) with revenue of €501m in 2008 and Frozen Foods with revenue of €158m in 2008.

It said that the management of branded and distribution activities in the various European countries was increasingly integrated, therefore these activities were less distinctive as separate reporting segments.

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