HUNT-WESSON ACQUIRES CHUN KING

FULLERTON, Calif. -- Hunt-Wesson here, maker of the La Choy line, has boosted its share of the Oriental foods market with the acquisition of the Chun King trademark.The deal gives Hunt-Wesson Chun King's grocery items. The frozen foods subsidiary of ConAgra, the Omaha, Neb.-based parent of Hunt-Wesson, already owned Chun King's frozen-food line, having acquired it from Del Monte in 1986."We believe

FULLERTON, Calif. -- Hunt-Wesson here, maker of the La Choy line, has boosted its share of the Oriental foods market with the acquisition of the Chun King trademark.

The deal gives Hunt-Wesson Chun King's grocery items. The frozen foods subsidiary of ConAgra, the Omaha, Neb.-based parent of Hunt-Wesson, already owned Chun King's frozen-food line, having acquired it from Del Monte in 1986.

"We believe the [Chun King] business is a good fit with our La Choy business. It will strengthen both the La Choy and Chun King shelf-stable businesses," said Lynn Phares, ConAgra's vice president of public relations and community affairs.

Despite some product overlap, both the La Choy and Chun King brand names will be retained, according to Kay Carpenter, corporate communications manager for Hunt-Wesson.

"We plan to aggressively market both names," she said, noting that at present there were no plans to combine the two brands. "They're both established leaders in their field, and they both have brand strengths and equities," she explained.

However, Carpenter and Phares did not rule out the possibility that the two lines eventually could be merged.

"There are some of the same products in both lines," Carpenter said. "One of the things we're doing is really taking a look at both lines."

"Their production will probably take place at one facility, but we're not ready to announce our specific plans for La Choy and Chun King at this time," Phares said.

Terms of the deal, completed in late March, were not disclosed. Hunt-Wesson purchased the trademark from Yeo Hiap Seng, a Singapore-based company that owned and operated the Chun King manufacturing plant in Cambridge, Md.

Hunt-Wesson will operate the facility until it is able to begin producing Chun King foods at one of its own plants, Phares said.

"Eventually, we'll integrate Chun King into our own manufacturing system," she said, adding that no timetable for the integration has been set.

In 1994, La Choy's sales of chow mein noodles, bamboo shoots, sauces and miscellaneous Oriental foods (excluding frozen) totaled $104.4 million, according to figures from Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Chun King's sales of those foods totaled $33.6 million.

Total Oriental food sales last year were $301.4 million, down 1.2% from 1993 figures, IRI reported.