Premier offloads vinegar and pickles brands

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LEADING vinegar brand Sarson’s and pickles business Haywards were today sold to a Japanese firm in a £41m deal.

Premier Foods is also selling speciality vinegar Dufrais as it focuses on a core portfolio that includes Hovis, Mr Kipling and Batchelors.

The businesses, which are primarily based at Premier’s Middleton factory near Manchester, are being sold to Mizkan, which has operations at Burntwood in Staffordshire and is a major supplier of rice vinegar in the UK.

The deal is expected to complete by the end of next month, with all staff due to transfer to the new owner.

Sarson’s was created in 1794 by Thomas Sarson and is the country’s best-selling vinegar brand. The product, which is a staple of UK fish and chip shops and is sold in a pear-shaped bottle, was once owned by Crosse & Blackwell.

The Haywards business dates back to 1868 and has a product portfolio that includes pickled onions, beetroot, red cabbage, piccalilli and gherkins. Some of the lines are distributed from Premier’s Bury St Edmunds factory.

St Albans-based Premier, which also owns Bisto, Ambrosia and Loyd Grossman products, is planning to focus its operations on eight “power brands”.

It has been struggling under a near £1bn debt mountain following a spending spree that included Mr Kipling owner RHM, but is now on the mend after recently sealing a “landmark” £1.4bn refinancing deal.

Commenting on today’s deal, chief executive Michael Clarke said: “I’m delighted that we have found a buyer such as Mizkan.

“Our vinegars and sour pickles business and employees will greatly benefit from being part of a global player focused on vinegar and liquid condiments.”

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