The creation of a giant European frozen food company is closer than ever following Unilever’s decision to sell the Birds Eye brand.
A Unilever spokesman said it had decided to sell its European frozen operations, which include Birds Eye and Iglo, as it had been unable to grow the Birds Eye business in the UK.
He said that the deal was expected to be completed this year. The sale, which does not include Unilever’s ice cream operations or its frozen food business in Italy, is expected to raise £1.3bn. Unilever’s decision will alert a number of private equity firms including Capvest, owner of Young’s Bluecrest.
Last week Capvest bought the Findus frozen food business from Scandinavian private equity company EQT. It is also believed to be one of three companies still in the running to buy the Heinz frozen business.
This week Unilever said it was the right time to sell “as it would be likely to lead to the expected future consolidation in the frozen food sector”.
Alf Carr, director general of the British Frozen Food Federation, said that the diverse nature of the Heinz and Unilever businesses could be difficult to integrate but that the rewards could be huge.