PREMIER FOODS yesterday said it had sold some of the UK’s best-known breakfast table staples including Hartley’s jam and Gale’s Honey to an American food group, in its latest efforts to pay down debts.
Hain Celestial, the US organic products company, known for its Earth’s Best and Celestial Seasonings Brands, has agreed to pay around £200m for Premier’s jams and spreads business.
The portfolio, which also includes Sun-Pat peanut butter, the marmalade brands Robertson’s, Frank Cooper, Keiller and the licence for Rose’s marmalade, generated $250m in sales in its last financial year.
Premier ran up large debts after buying RHM and Campbell Soups’ UK and Irish business in 2006 and has been selling off assets to meet the refinancing terms agreed with its banks in March.
It has to raise £330m from asset sales by mid-2014 after its banks, led by Royal Bank of Scotland, agreed to give Premier more time to repay £1bn of loans. It has raised £275m so far.
Hain Celestial is an example of yet another foreign buyer raiding UK larders in recent years. It has been rapidly cementing its foothold in the UK after buying Daniels, the owner of Covent Garden soups, last year.
In a statement yesterday the company said buying Premier’s jam business gave it access into the non-refrigerated food market and would pave the way for Hain becoming “one of the largest healthy food companies in the UK”.
Spayne Lindsay & Co, an independent advisory firm focused on the consumer industries, has acted for Premier Foods on several disposals and acquisitions over the years and was hired last year to advise on the sale of its sweet spreads and jellies business.
The team was led by Tom Lindsay, a chartered accountant and Manchester university graduate who co-founded Spayne Lindsay in 2000 after working more than twenty years in investment banking for Flemings and Lehman Brothers. A consumer industry veteran, Lindsay is also on the board of Eminate, a subsidiary of Nottingham University which commercialises research-led projects and recently signed a deal with Tate & Lyle to supply it with a new product that reduces the salt content in food.
Spayne Lindsay has worked with Premier on a number of deals including the £460m takeover of Campbell’s UK and Irish business in 2006, which brought the iconic soup, Batchelor’s and Oxo into its fold.
It also acted for Haine Celestial in October last year on the $230m acquisition of Daniels group, the chilled food manufacturer whose brands include New Covent Garden soup and Johnsons’ natural fresh squeezed juices. The firm also advised Uniq on its sale to Greencore last year.