Food giant Unilever to sell 15 North American brands including Mazola cooking oil

Thursday, May 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Anglo-Dutch food giant Unilever will sell 15 North American brands to focus on its leading products.

The sale, including Mazola cooking oil and Argo corn starch, will reduce Unilever's brands by 75 percent. The sale of those brands, with combined annual sales of about $400 million, is also part of the company's integration with Bestfoods, Unilever said Thursday.

Unilever bought Englewood, N.J.-based Bestfoods, owner of the Hellmann's, Mazola, Knorr and Mueller's brands, in June 2000. It later acquired Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Slimfast diet foods.

The purchases cost more than $28 billion and made Unilever one of the largest food companies in the world.

Other brands to be sold by Unilever include Karo and Golden Griddle syrups, Kingsford corn starch and Rit dye, the company said Thursday. Canadian brands up for sale include Canada and Benson's corn starches, St. Lawrence corn oil and Crown and Beehive corn syrups.

``The brands identified for sale represent an attractive portfolio but fall outside of our strategy to focus on leading brands such as Ragu, Hellman's and Lipton,'' said Patrick Cescau, Unilever's foods director.

As part of the transaction, Unilever will sell plants in Argo, Ill., and Indianapolis that employ 240 people. A buyer would determine the future of the plants, said Unilever spokesman Stephen Milton.

Since February, Unilever has announced 33,000 job cuts, or about 11 percent of its worldwide work force, to recover from slumping profits.