As part of its 2002-2004 strategic plan, Strauss-Elite will reduce the management staff from 32 to 11, according to chairwoman Ofra Strauss-Lahat. The plan will reduce operating costs, "strengthen the company against its competitors and increase its value to shareholders".

Strauss-Lahat told the Jerusalem Post that over the last four years, Elite formed "one coherent group from its various acquisitions [and] the next three years will be spent making us the best Israeli food company."

She added that the group's decision to focus on food "was definitely the right one. Hi-tech was the name of the game and we decided to focus on what we did best: food".

Overseas meanwhile, Elite intends to expand its confectionery manufacture and is currently negotiating the purchase of a quality-chocolate manufacturer in Lille, France, with the plan to merge it with a similar Elite-owned company in France.

By Aaron Priel, correspondent