AstraZeneca sheds Quorn business

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Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca continues to focus solely on its
pharma business with the news last week that it will sell UK Marlow
Foods - the producer of meat substitute Quorn - for £70 million

AstraZeneca, the international pharmaceutical group, last week announced that it was to sell its Marlow Foods unit - which makes the meat replacement product Quorn - to the private equity group Montagu for £70 million (€98.5m).

The deal is part of AstraZeneca's drive to concentrate solely on its pharmaceutical business, and comes as Quorn faces a barrage of criticism about the safety of the product which is used as the base for a wide range of chilled and frozen prepared foods.

AstraZeneca valued Marlow Foods at around £100 million when it put the business up for sale a year ago.

Despite consumer concern in the US about potential allergic reactions to Quorn - and a recent ruling by the UK Advertising Standards Authority that Marlow was misleading consumers by saying that Quorn was mushroom-based - the product itself continues to grow in popularity, with sales last year of more than £80 million.

The product is primarily sold in the UK, which accounts for 75 per cent of turnover, and in mainland Europe, and last year began its rollout in the US.

Marlow Foods will be chaired by Ross Warburton, who spent nine years as executive chairman of the UK baker Warburtons. Nick Hughes, current CEO of Marlow, will retain that position.

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