Unilever has finally offloaded Chicken Tonight and Ragu – almost a year after putting the unfashionable sauce brands up for sale.

Symington’s acquires the UK rights for an undisclosed sum. Unilever retains the brands in all other markets.

Production for both brands will remain at Unilever’s Dutch factory in Oss for at least the next three years. No staff will move to Symington’s as a result of the deal.

Unilever put the brands up for sale last September following a strategic review

The deal follows Symington's acquisition of salad crouton brand La Rochelle last month and will bring the Leeds-based company’s annualised gross sales to about £150m. Symington’s, which makes the Nation's Noodles under the Golden Wonder name, said it was ready to revitalise sales of the flagging brands.

“We have a proven track record of taking on heritage brands, rejuvenating them and introducing new product developments,” said chief executive David Salkeld. “Both Campbell’s and Golden Wonder had latent value, which we breathed new life into in 2011 and 2009 respectively.”

The branding and packaging of Ragu – which debuted in 1988 – will be revamped to reflect its Italian-American heritage and stand out better on-shelf. Its recipes will also be taken upmarket. Meanwhile, Chicken Tonight will get a facelift and increased NPD.

“Our aim is to redevelop the ranges to ensure that they are real alternatives to the market leaders in the cooking sauce category,” said Symington’s marketing director Henrik Pade.

“We want them to perform as challenger brands and hope consumers will become loyal to the brands once again, with the sauces forming an integral part of a family’s weekly shop.”.

Read more
Campbell’s Condensed Soups return to shelves (29 July 2011)
Symington’s on gravy train as new factory boosts production (27 November 2010)
Unilever eyes sale of Ragu and Chicken Tonight (29 September 2010)