After months of speculation, this week Sara Lee finally decided upon its future – and it involves a split of the business. Uncertainty continues to surround the future of the UK’s Northern Foods, while local rival Premier Foods took a step to cut its debt pile with a key disposal. Elsewhere, cocoa prices soared after Cote d’Ivoire’s president-elect called for an export ban and France’s food makers, facing commodity pressure, called on Nicolas Sarkozy to help.

UPDATE: US: Sara Lee confirms plans to split business
Sara Lee, the US food group, has this afternoon (28 January) confirmed plans to split itself in two.

COTE D’IVOIRE: Cocoa export ban “testing time”, say candy firms
Europe’s confectioners and biscuit makers have admitted that a temporary ban of cocoa shipments from Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa exporter, has created “a very testing time” for the industry.

UK: Premier Foods sells meat-free division to private-equity firm Exponent
Premier Foods plc, the UK’s largest food maker, has sold its meat-free business to Exponent Private Equity for GBP205m (US$328m).

Click here for just-food’s analysis of the sale – and why more disposals could follow.

Comment: Greencore merger still best bet for Northern 
Following the takeover bid from Boparan Holdings, shareholders in Northern Foods could be forgiven for feeling confused but, writes Dean Best, a merger with Greencore still appears to be the best option for the UK food group.

FRANCE: Food industry calls on Sarkozy for support to up prices
ANIA, the trade body for the French food industry, has written to Nicolas Sarkozy asking for his support as it seeks to pass on hikes in commodity prices to retailers.

UK: Robert Wiseman Dairies revamp could cost jobs
UK milk processor Robert Wiseman Dairies today (27 January) admitted that over 130 jobs could be under threat as the company considers closing a production site and distribution depot. 

just the answer – Cargill and ABF’s UK table-top sweetener launch
In the UK, Cargill and Associated British Foods are lining up the introduction of Truvia – a table-top sweetener made with stevia that is already on sale in the US. Dean Best met with executives from both sides to discuss their plans.

CHINA: Wal-Mart, Carrefour apologise for false pricing 
Wal-Mart Stores and Carrefour have apologised after being fined for using faulty price tags and overstating discount claims in China. 

In the spotlight – Feeding the world
This week saw the publication of a major report from the UK government think-tank, Foresight, on the sustainability of global food production.