September 1, 2004
Wells’ Dairy continues to expand with new brands … Parmalat sues banks, alleging they abetted fraud … DFA comes under federal scrutiny … Gossner Foods to build $40 million processing plant … For information on these stories and other industry news, turn to MarketWatch on
nWells’ Dairy Inc., Le Mars, Iowa, has acquired FrozFruit (all-natural fruit bars) and Chill Ice (creamy fruit ice) brands of frozen-treat products from Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Fruit-Ices Corp. Wells also acquired the lease on the Clovis, N.M., Fruit-Ices processing facility where many of the acquired products are made.
nParmalat Finanziaria SpA is refusing to accept $1.3 billion in claims from banks including Citigroup Inc. ($657 million), Bank of America Corp. ($223 million), UBS AG ($75 million), and Deutsche Bank ($123 million). The Italian company is additionally in the process of filing suit against banks it had dealings with, alleging they either abetted fraud or received payment at the expense of creditors, allegedly contributing to the collapse of the multi-national dairy company late last year. Lawsuits include $20 million against Deutsche Bank, $350 million against Swiss bank UBS and $10 billion against U.S. bank Citigroup Inc.
nDairy Farmers of America (DFA) is the focus of an antitrust investigation by the U.S Department of Justice. The Kansas City, Mo.-based cooperative’s exclusive supply agreements in eastern Louisiana and Florida are reportedly being examined as part of the probe. According to published reports, several Louisiana dairy farmers were interviewed by federal prosecutors last month about their dealings with DFA, the country’s largest dairy cooperative.
nLogan, Utah-based Gossner Foods Inc., plans to build a $40 million processing plant at a J.R. Simplot Co. facility site in Heyburn, Idaho. With operations to open by October 2005, the plant will primarily process Swiss cheese. J.R. Simplot will continue to use its frozen food distribution center.
nA lowfat, vitamin-fortified ice cream bar dubbed Worthies Healthy Ice Cream from start-up Fussworthy Foods has racked up $50,000 in sales thus far and continues to grow. Developed in Texas by Ronica Tucker and Heather Boyett, the product is co-packed by Perry’s Ice Cream Co., Akron, N.Y. The two founders are Boeing employees who conducted R&D in their home kitchens. The Worthies line is currently distributed in the Southeast and New York state by foodservice distributorship. In addition, Texas-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co. began carrying the products in its supermarkets this summer, while talks are underway with other retailers including Albertsons, Wal-Mart, Costco, Publix and Winn-Dixie; 7-Eleven convenience stores are also testing the products.
Weekly milk sales hit 1 million units just one month after Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s International’s national rollout of milk in 8-ounce single-serve plastic bottles. The milk is offered as an alternative to soda in children’s meals and as an a la carte item. Wendy’s restaurants previously about 65,000 gabletop-packaged milk units a week.
In August, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Holdings Inc. recorded a second-quarter loss of $88.36 million after severance costs, higher interest expense, losses in butter trading and charges from its 2003 merger with Nestlé Ice Cream Co.’s U.S. ice cream unit. In the year-earlier period, the company lost $47.2 million.
Baraboo, Wis.-based Foremost Farms USA’s board of directors has voted to revolve $4.2 million in allocated equity and surplus. The payments are in addition to the cash portion of the 2003 patronage issued in April. In total, Foremost Farms has issued over $6 million in cash payments to equity holders in 2004.
More details have emerged surrounding the legal battle between Weight Watchers International Inc. and CoolBrands International Inc. Weight Watchers has sued CoolBrands, alleging the frozen dessert manufacturer is stockpiling Weight Watchers Smart Ones-branded frozen desserts to sell them after it’s $113 million licensing contract with Weight Watchers expires Sept. 28. Woodbury, N.Y.-based Weight Watchers is asking the New York Supreme Court to prevent Toronto-based CoolBrands from selling Smart Ones products and to award unspecified compensation. In response, CoolBrands has filed a $360 million lawsuit alleging Weight Watchers signed a new agreement with Wells’ Dairy, effective Oct. 1, while still under the original contract.
Cheese and snack lovers now can snack with character as Plymouth, Wis.-based Sargento Foods Inc. partners with Ernest J. Keebler to drive the retail sales of Sargento non-refrigerated snacks. Sargento recently partnered with the Kellogg Co.’s Keebler® brand on a licensing program and on-pack retail merchandising effort to create increased awareness of the dual-branded snack products.