UK fresh prepared foods and produce business Geest has announced that it has reached agreement on the creation of a new business called International Produce which will supply imported produce to supermarket chain Asda.

Geest announced in early December 2003 that it was in talks over the formation of a new company that would combine the current import activity of Geest's English Village Salads (EVS), a business dedicated to Asda, and the business of Thames Fruit, an exclusive importer of citrus fruits and melons for Asda. Going forward, International Produce intends to expand its product portfolio to handle other types of imported produce.

Geest said the purpose of the business is to simplify the supply chain for imported produce to Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Wal-Mart.

International Produce will operate from two sites in Yorkshire and Kent. EVS will continue to supply Asda separately with produce grown in the UK.

Based on plans for the first six months of trading, Geest said International Produce is expected to report an estimated annualised profit before tax of £1.7m (US$3.16m). EVS's profit will reduce as a result of the transfer of business to International Produce but the expected overall impact of the transaction on Geest in 2004 is a small increase in earnings.