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General Mills has sold two of its ready meals brands and licensed a third to ready meal specialists Beak & Johnston. Ready Chef and Pasta Master will be sold, and Latina’s chilled ready meals category will be licenced to Beak.

General Mills ANZ VP and MD Peter Everett told Food & Drink Business the decision was driven by the company wanting to drive stronger growth for the Latina master brand. “We will continue to own the Latina brand and operate the Latina Fresh Pasta & Sauce business. This is a critical growth priority for us. As such, General Mills will continue our ongoing marketing for the Latina Masterbrand & Innovation as the leading brand in the Pasta & Sauce category,” he said.

In a statement on LinkedIn, Beak & Johnston said it was very excited about the opportunities the agreement would generate.

“We are very excited about this opportunity and is another vote of confidence in Beak and Johnston's ability to deliver convenient high-quality inspiring solutions across the chilled landscape and expand our Brand portfolio,” it said.

Everett said General Mills and Beak & Johnston had been working closely together for more than a year.

He said: “We trust their ability to deliver quality ready-to-eat meal products under our Latina brand. As our incumbent external supply chain manufacturer for ready-to-eat meals, we are pleased that our Pasta Master and Ready Chef brands are going to a trusted manufacturer and we will work closely with Beak to ensure a smooth changeover during this time.”

Existing Beak & Johnston brands are Pitango, Beak & Sons, Simmone Logue Fine Food and Strength Meals Co.

It has a partnership with Woolworths for the brand B&J City Kitchen – Beak owns 77 per cent and Woolworths 23 per cent. It supplies retailers nationally.

Last year the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) rejected B&J Kitchen’s proposed acquisition of Jewel Fine Foods (Jewel) by B&J City Kitchen. ACCC chair Rod sims said: “We believe that the proposed acquisition is likely to substantially lessen competition for the supply of chilled ready meals.”

In May, the ACCC approved the sale of Jewel to Coles, with commissioner Stephen Ridgeway saying the Coles acquisition ensured there would still be two major suppliers of chilled ready meals.

“The ACCC investigation focused on whether other retailers would be foreclosed if Coles acquired the business. We found that Woolworths already has supply arrangements with Jewel’s competitor, B&J City Kitchen, and that other retailers have other options,” Ridgeway said (Food & Drink Business 10/09/2019, 01/05/2020).

Everett said the company was looking forward to “continuing to support our great brands including Old El Paso, Latina Fresh, Nature Valley, Haagen-Dazs, Fibre One and Betty Crocker”.  

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