Potato processor Cavendish buys appetizer business

An Ontario frozen fruit company plans to sell its appetizer business to North America’s No. 4 processor of frozen potato products.

Omstead Foods, based at Wheatley, about 60 km southeast of Windsor, announced Thursday it would sell its appetizer division to Cavendish Farms for an undisclosed sum.

The deal includes the processing equipment at Omstead’s Wheatley plant, as well as a lease on the facility and the name “Omstead Appetizers.”

Cavendish plans to phase out the name, however, and replace it with “Cavendish Appetizers” over the next year.

Cavendish, part of New Brunswick’s Irving Group of Companies, said it would continue to market all coated appetizer products formerly offered by Omstead, retain all existing relationships with customers and offer employment to the 150 staff now working for Omstead’s appetizer division.

“I am excited about what this acquisition by Cavendish Farms means for Omstead’s longstanding coated appetizer customers in terms of expanded product scope and offerings to support their businesses,” Omstead president Bill Stafford said in a release Thursday.

The sale to Cavendish doesn’t affect Omstead’s nationwide fruit processing or packing operations, which include Snowcrest Packers in Western Canada. Nor is the sale connected to Omstead’s earlier shedding of its vegetable and seafood operations.

“We will now focus our efforts on the continued development of our national fruit business,” said Stafford, whose company also operates at Abbotsford and Burnaby, B.C. and maintains a national sales and marketing office at Burlington, Ont.

“The frozen fruit category is experiencing tremendous growth in both the retail and food service channels and as a national leader in the category, Omstead is well positioned to benefit.”

Omstead, which markets the Omstead, Snowcrest and Blend Ease brands, began as a family-owned firm in 1911 and was owned by John Labatt (1986-96) and then by H.J. Heinz (1996-2003), which sold it to Calgary equity firm TriWest Capital Partners.

Cavendish, which supplies grocery, food service and quick service restaurants worldwide, operates two processing plants at New Annan, P.E.I. and one at Jamestown, N.D.

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