News Wire

Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive officer of Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Inc. joined with 11 Kraft employees from around the world April 2 to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to mark the company’s first day of trading as a fully independent company. Altria Group Inc. completed the spin-off of Kraft on March 30, welcoming an additional 800,000 shareholders. “As a fully independent company, we’ll have more opportunity to fulfill the potential of our great brands and great company,” Rosenfeld said. Kraft has announced it will spend $300 million to $400 million this year on developing and marketing new products to spur revenue growth by at least 3 percent. The company says it expects to have per-share profit in 2007 of $1.75 to $1.80, excluding 25 cents in costs from factory closings and expenses tied to a three-year restructuring. The forecast misses analysts’ average estimate of $1.94 and reflects more spending, a higher tax rate and the dilution of shares from the spinoff.
In a $130 million deal, Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. has announced its purchase of New York-based cultured processor Friendship Dairies Inc. Friendship’s facility will remain open with the same staffing, and products made at the dairy will continue to carry the Friendship label, said Dean spokesperson Margorette Capell. “We look at this as an opportunity to expand our cultured dairy production and support the Friendship brand,” she said. Dean Foods expected to complete the transaction by the second quarter of 2007.
Carlinville, Ill.-based Prairie Farms Dairy Inc. has purchased LuVel Dairy Products, Kosciusko, Miss. Ed Mullins, executive vice president and CEO of Prairie Farms, said both companies have a long history of producing high-quality dairy products. “The acquisition of LuVel Dairy allows our companies the ability to continue our growth in new markets,” Mullins said.
Friendly Ice Cream Corp., Wilbraham, Mass., has announced it has retained Goldman Sachs & Co. as financial advisor and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP as legal advisor to assist its board of directors in exploring strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, including a possible sale of the company. Friendly’s manufactures ice cream for retail sale and operates a chain of more than 500 casual dining restaurants in the Northeast.
A New York investment firm has acquired Marble Slab Creamery and MaggieMoo’s International, the nation’s second- and third-largest high-end ice cream parlor chains, in an apparent bid to overtake the No. 1 player, Cold Stone Creamery. The purchases aim to shake up this industry segment, which in the past decade has transformed the ice cream parlor experience from a simple and relatively inexpensive pleasure into a luxury product, with mix-ins blended by hand at a cost of $5 or more a scoop. The chains, with more than 520 franchise locations between them and combined sales of about $140 million, are expected to be bought for $37 million in cash and stock. The buyer, NexCen Brands, is less than a year old but has quickly made a name for itself in financial circles by acquiring footwear chain Athlete’s Foot and designer clothing label Bill Blass.
Sam’s Club, the nation’s leading members-only warehouse, has honored Kansas City, Mo.-based Dairy Farmers of America’s (DFA) Keller’s Creamery as the 2007 Co-managed Inventory Vendor of the Year. The honor is based on a company’s ability to provide Sam’s Club with the inventory they need — from proper quantities to timely delivery. Keller’s supplies Sam’s Clubs across the country with butter produced under the Mid-America Farms® label.
Boulder, Colo.-based Horizon Organic has published a comprehensive set of guidelines that will govern how it runs its company-owned farms while helping educate consumers and others about the complexities of organic farming. The Horizon Organic “Standards of Care” encompass every aspect of life on a Horizon Organic dairy farm, from calf-raising to health care to pasture management. Besides complying with the USDA requirements for organic certification, these standards aspire to the next level of organic stewardship.
National Dairy Brands, Houston, has become the newest member of the Arlington, Va.-based American Butter Institute. National Dairy Brands manufactures and markets specialty dairy products under its own brand and many others. The company’s product lines include specialty butter portions, flavored butter, European-style butter, butter solids, cups, bulk butter, continentals and readies.
Last month, Subway Restaurants became the latest quick-serve food chain to offer low-fat white and reduced-fat chocolate milk in plastic, single-serve bottles on its menu. The franchise introduced the white milk offering as part of its new Fresh Fit menu in its more than 20,000 restaurants across the country, while the chocolate milk will be available a la carte. The bottled milk will be a permanent beverage option for the chain’s child and adult customer base. Dairy producers, through their checkoff investment, will work with Subway to promote the new milk offerings to the public throughout this summer and fall. This partnership brings the total number of restaurants offering milk in plastic bottles to more than 50,000 nationwide.
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