Heinz has agreed to be bought by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway fund and private-equity firm 3G Capital for US$28bn – the largest-ever takeover in the food sector.

In a shock announcement today (14 February), the US food giant said its board had approved a deal worth $72.50 a share. Heinz said the offer was a 20% premium to the company’s share price when the market closed yesterday.

“As a private enterprise, Heinz will have an opportunity to drive further growth and advance our commitment to providing consumers across the globe with great tasting, nutritious and wholesome products,” Heinz chairman, president and CEO Bill Johnson said.

“The Heinz brand is one of the most respected brands in the global food industry and this historic transaction provides tremendous value to Heinz shareholders.”

Explaining the reasons for the offer, US billionaire and famed investor Buffett praised the company’s brands. “Heinz has strong, sustainable growth potential based on high quality standards, continuous innovation, excellent management and great tasting products. Their global success is a testament to the power of investing behind strong brand equities and the strength of their management team and processes.”

Buffett’s Berkshire will team up with 3G Capital. Alex Behring, 3G Capital’s managing partner, also pointed to the ketchup manufacturer’s brands. “We have great respect for the Heinz brands and the strong business that management and its employees operate around the world. We approached Heinz to explore how we might work together to expand the value of this storied brand.”

Heinz shareholders will have to approve the deal but it is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013.

For coverage of the Heinz and 3G Capital press conference in Pittsburgh, click here.