Natural Foods Merchandiser

Solgar, Quorn bought in separate deals

A busy spring for mergers kept rolling this month as NBTY Inc. announced its intent June 7 to purchase Solgar Vitamin and Herb Co. for $115 million.

NBTY intends to use the Solgar brand to build a relationship with independent health food stores, according to NBTY President Harvey Kamil. Solgar, based in Leonia, N.J., had about $105 million in sales last year.

?Solgar will be dedicated, absolutely dedicated, to the independent health food store and the independent health food store owner,? he said. ?The Solgar team will be an autonomously run company.?

New products will be an early focus under NBTY ownership. ?Wyeth was very slow to react to market conditions,? Kamil said.

Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, a division of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, purchased Solgar in 1998. Divesting of Solgar ?allows us to concentrate on our core business in the nutrition segment, which is Centrum,? spokesman Doug Petkus said. Other than Solgar, all the brands in Wyeth?s consumer division, including Preparation H and Advil, are sold in conventional food, drug and discount stores.

At the end of 2004, NBTY operated 560 Vitamin World and Nutrition Warehouse stores in the United States, plus Holland & Barrett stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland, GNC stores in the U.K., and DeTuinen stores in the Netherlands, plus the Puritan Pride catalog and e-commerce business.

Its supplement brands include Nature?s Bounty, Rexall, Sundown, Carb Solutions, MET-Rx, Worldwide Sport Nutrition, CarbWise and American Health.

In another recent deal Premier Foods, a U.K. conventional food producer, bought the meat alternative Quorn for about $340 million.

Quorn?s original owner, the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, sold it to Marlow Foods, a private equity group, for about $115 million two years ago. Quorn holds a 60 percent share of the U.K. meat alternatives business and Premier intends to spend money on marketing to increase its presence in Europe and the United States.

Premier Chief Executive Robert Schofield said the brand has been growing 7 percent to 8 percent a year. ?What we see are the healthy eaters who don?t want to give up the meat but are under some pressure at home to eat more healthily and turn to products like Quorn.?

Premier Foods owns a number of marquee brands in the United Kingdom, including Branston?s pickles and Ty-Phoo tea. It has grown through acquisition in recent years, buying Crosse & Blackwell condiments and several other brands from Nestlé in 2002. This is its first foray into the healthy foods business.

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