ST. LOUIS -- Van de Kamp's here has entered an agreement to acquire the Mrs. Paul's frozen seafood business from Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J.
The sale would not include any of Campbell's manufacturing operations. Van de Kamp's would produce products under the Mrs. Paul's brand at its existing manufacturing plants.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Mrs. Paul's 1995 sales were $80 million. With annual sales of $150 million, Van de Kamp's is owned by a group of private investors that includes managing partner Dartford Partnership, San Francisco, and majority shareholder Fenway Partners Capital Fund L.P., New York.
"The acquisition of Mrs. Paul's is in line with our strategic objective to broaden our presence in the frozen convenience food category," Ian R. Wilson, chairman of Van de Kamp's, said in a company statement. Van de Kamp's also markets a line of frozen desserts, including Pet-Ritz cobblers and cream pies and Oronoque Orchards pie shells and whipped toppings.
According to Thomas O. Ellinwood, Van de Kamp's president, "This is a great fit for Van de Kamp's. It gives us increased presence in markets in the eastern and southeastern United States and extends our product line to include specialty seafood and adult-oriented products."
The deal would boost Van de Kamp's position as the market leader in frozen seafood, a category that has seen slack sales in recent years. Van de Kamp's had a 17.2% dollar market share for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 8, reported Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Mrs. Paul's share was 12.5%. Gorton's, the next leading frozen seafood seller, had a dollar share of 15.7% in that period.
Commenting on the proposed sale, Kathleen MacDonnell, president of Campbell's Frozen Foods Group, said in a company statement, "Mrs. Paul's has a strong niche presence in the larger frozen convenience food category and excellent brand equity. It does not, however, fit with our long-term strategy to focus resources on our core frozen food businesses: Swanson, Pepperidge Farm and Campbell's foodservice."
Mrs. Paul's produces breaded and batter-dipped fillets and fish sticks; specialty seafood products, including fried clams and deviled crab; and specialty vegetables.