Land O'Lakes, Inc. and the North American Division of Paris-based Bongrain SA today announced their intention to form a joint venture in aseptic (sterile-packaged) products. Terms of the agreement, completion of which is subject to due diligence and regulatory review, were not disclosed.

The joint venture will enable the two companies to establish a stronger position in the aseptic industry by leveraging their combined expertise and technologies, and generating the increased level of capital necessary to remain competitive, officials of Bongrain and Land O'Lakes said.

``The combination of complimentary product lines and geographies are among the key elements that make our two organizations a very good fit in the aseptic area,'' said Jack Prince, Land O'Lakes Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Dairy Foods Industrial Group. ``We are also impressed with Bongrain's commitment to success in the aseptic market and their leadership position in aseptic technologies. This joint venture has extremely positive implications in terms of production efficiencies, customer service and competitive position.''

``From Bongrain's perspective, Land O'Lakes dairy-based competencies and strong reputation in the North American market are very positive assets,'' said Thomas Swartele, Chief Executive Officer of Bongrain's North American Division. ``In addition, our two organizations share a commitment to product quality, customer service and operational excellence. Overall, we are confident this joint venture will generate significant synergies, enable us to leverage our combined expertise and market strength, and provide the level of capital necessary to remain competitive in this technology-intensive industry.''

Combined aseptic product sales for the two organizations totaled approximately $180 million in 1999. Land O'Lakes currently operates aseptic production facilities in Clear Lake, Wis., and Northumberland, Pa. and a warehouse and labeling facility in Chippewa, Wis. Bongrain's North American aseptic facilities include Major Smith in New Holland, Pa., and Real Fresh in Visalia, Calif. Typical aseptic products include cheese sauces, ready-to- drink specialty beverages and puddings.

Paris-based Bongrain ( http://www.bongrain.com ) is a $3.5 billion company, with sales in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia. Approximately 70 percent of its sales volume is in Europe, with 40% in France. The company markets commodity and specialty cheeses, additional dairy products and gourmet foods. It has plants in 16 countries.

Land O'Lakes ( http://www.landolakesinc.com ) is a national, farmer-owned food and agricultural cooperative, with sales approaching $6 billion. Land O'Lakes does business in all fifty states and more than fifty countries. It is a leading marketer of a full line of dairy-based consumer, foodservice and food ingredient products across the U.S.; services its international customers with a variety of food and animal feed ingredients; and provides farmers and local cooperatives with an extensive line of agricultural supplies (feed, seed, crop nutrients and crop protection products) and services.