Siân Harrington Heinz Europe is aggressively seeking acquisitions as it embarks on a strategy to position itself as more innovative with a stable of pan European products. It also plans a double-digit year-on-year increase in marketing investment. Speaking exclusively to The Grocer, new Heinz Europe president and CEO Joe Jimenez said the $3 billion business had specific targets. "New business for Heinz Europe will come though bolt-on acquisitions. They will be on the Continent primarily as there is more opportunity. For example, Spain is relatively under-developed," he said. "We have been looking at it for some time, but have not talked as aggressively as over the past month." Key areas for acquisition will be meal enhancers (ketchups, condiments and sauces) and convenience meals, both frozen and shelf stable. Heinz Europe is divided into five regions, of which the UK and Ireland accounts for around half its business while the north (Netherlands, Germany and Belgium) and south (Italy and Greece) regions generate some $500 million. The west (France, Spain and Portugal) and central (Poland, Czech Republic and Russia) account for the rest. While Heinz will focus on growing the business regionally, it intends to identify those products that should be pan-European. Jimenez, who took over his position on July 15, said his priority was to accelerate innovation and new product development and re-examine the consumer to drive both the top and bottom lines. "The European business gives a very solid profit contribution to Heinz but is not as innovative as others. We will compete through being more nimble, with a greater consumer understanding, and by being smarter at allocating our resources." To help drive innovation Jimenez has appointed Stefan Barden as director of category management. "He is a facilitator for the regions who will jumpstart innovation. If there is a good idea in the Netherlands he will facilitate knowledge transfer, make sure there are the right skill sets and generate new ideas," he said. Jimenez said the business was increasing marketing spend, with a double-digit rise year on year. Heinz's current investment is slightly below the food industry average as a percentage of sales. To finance this increase Heinz will take cost out of the supply chain, including ramping up its commitment to reverse auctions for ingredients. {{NEWS }}