LONDON (Reuters) - Unilever has agreed to sell its Ragu and Bertolli pasta sauce brands to Japanese condiments maker Mizkan Group for $2.15 billion (1.27 billion pounds) in cash, bringing it closer to wrapping up the restructuring of its North American food business.
The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company is still exploring options for its troubled Slimfast brand, but has said a conclusion on that would be the last step in the streamlining of its food business in the United States.
Unilever recently sold its Skippy peanut butter and Wishbone salad dressings in the United States and its Peperami brand in Europe as it focuses on higher-growth, higher-margin products such as Dove soap and Sunsilk shampoo.
It sold the Ragu brand in Britain in 2011.
The latest deal gives Mizkan, which calls itself the world’s largest supplier of rice vinegar, a bigger footprint in the United States and a way to diversify out of Japan.
Unilever’s pasta sauce business had annual turnover of more than $600 million and is the leading brand in a market with annual sales of $2.3 billion.
Mizcan was advised by Goldman Sachs on the deal and Unilever was advised by Morgan Stanley.
Additional reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Li-mei Hoang and David Holmes