Campbell Soup Co. said it will sell its Garden Fresh Gourmet business as part of a turnaround effort.
The firm did not disclose the terms of the deal, announced Tuesday, with the expected buyer, an affiliate of Fountain of Health USA. Fountain of Health makes hummus, dips, salads, frozen desserts and other products.
The news comes just two weeks after Jack Aronson, who founded Garden Fresh Gourmet with his wife, Annette, told the Free Press he was part of a plan to buy the company back.
The Aronsons sold Garden Fresh Gourmet to Campbell in 2015 for $231 million. The purchase was part of Campbell’s ill-fated strategy to diversify its product lines.
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Last August, Campbell said it was selling Garden Fresh as well as Campbell’s fresh market division and Campbell International. The announcement came after the firm posted a quarterly loss of $475 million in May, reflecting one-time charges of $619 million at its fresh foods division.
Campbell has said it’s selling the businesses to sharpen its focus, reduce debt and strengthen its finances.
The company’s financial problems prompted changes to top management that led to the recent arrival of new president and CEO Mark Clouse.
Aronson told the Free Press earlier this month that he was part of a group that aimed to buy back Garden Fresh Gourmet. He said he believed he and his team were among the three bidders still in the running.
Aronson said what drove them to bid for the company – which was noted as the largest fresh salsa company in the world before being sold to Campbell’s – was the rumor that a company from Canada was bidding. Fountain of Health is a Canadian firm.
“Whether that’s true or not, it sounded like reliable information,” Aronson said at the time. “When we heard there was a possibility it could move out of town, we got aggressive.”
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The sale of Garden Fresh Gourmet is expected to close in Campbell’s fiscal 2019 third quarter.
A Fountain of Health representative could not be reached for immediate comment.
Last week, Campbell announced an agreement to sell a 225,000-square-foot refrigerated soup plant in Everett, Washington, that was part of Campbell Fresh. Terms of that transaction also were not disclosed. The expected buyer is an affiliate of Joshua Green Corp., a Seattle investment firm.
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