Nestlé is to sell part of its Buitoni pasta business in Italy to Switzerland-based investment firm TMT Finance.

The Swiss food giant is offloading its dried pasta operations, although it will hang on to the Buitoni brand and continue to manage it in the Italian fresh and frozen food sectors.

“There is an ongoing process within Nestlé focusing on higher value products. This is why we decided to sell our dried pasta operations in Italy,” a spokesperson for the company told just-food today (16 June).

Buitoni operates a dried pasta and crisp bread manufacturing plant in San Sepolcro, Tuscany. The facility generates an annual turnover of EUR100m (US$154.9m).

The plant’s 450 employees went on strike following the announcement as the Italian trade union voiced reservations over TMT.

“TMT is the only bidder who is able to guarantee the site’s activity, jobs and growth, as well as the development of the Buitoni brand,” the Nestlé spokesperson said. “Production will remain in the Arezzo province, thanks to a strict licensing agreement.”

Buitoni accounts for under 1% of the Italian dried pasta market, 4% of the country’s fresh pasta market, and 8% of its biscotte market.

This is TMT’s second investment in the Italian food sector in as many months – the Swiss investment fund also recently acquired Newlat from Parmalat.