Hillshire looks beyond meat with acquisition of Birds Eye, Vlasic

By The Associated Press Published: May 12, 2014
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Hillshire Brands is pushing further outside the deli case with a deal to buy the maker of Birds Eye frozen vegetables, Duncan Hines cake mixes and Hungry-Man frozen dinners.

The Chicago-based company, which makes Hillshire Farm lunch meats, Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park franks, said Monday that it would buy Pinnacle Foods in a deal valued at $4.23 billion. The move extends Hillshire’s reach into other sections of the supermarket as more Americans watch how much meat they’re eating.

Among Pinnacle’s other brands are Wish-Bone salad dressing, Celeste frozen pizzas and Vlasic pickles.

“Meats go with vegetables, sandwiches go with pickles,” Hillshire CEO Sean Connolly said in explaining why the deal made sense during a conference call with analysts.

In a telephone interview, Connolly noted that Americans are eating meat just as often, but less of it per meal. He said that actually benefits Hillshire because foods that incorporate different ingredients — such as its Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches — are more profitable than simpler items like lunchmeats or sausages.

“We’ve often said we like products that are more than just meat,” Connolly said.

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