Quest International, part of UK chemicals group ICI, has announced its intention to sell its food ingredient business to Ireland's Kerry Group for US$440m.

Quest said it had decided to sell the unit so it can focus on building and investing in its core markets of flavour and fragrance.

The sale is subject to regulatory approvals and employee consultation. It is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2004 and will involve the transfer of over 900 employees and nine sites, in Europe, the US and Asia to Kerry. The sites involved are: Utrecht and Zwijndrecht in the Netherlands; Menstrie in Scotland; Cork in the Republic of Ireland; Norwich, New York, and Rochester, Minnesota, in the USA; Brantford, Ontario, in Canada; Klang in Malaysia; and Cebu in the Philippines.

The Quest Food Ingredient business includes emulsifiers, proteins (including lactose), hydrocolloids, yeast, enzymes and fermented ingredients (including cultures). 

"The acquisition of Quest Food Ingredients, as well as expanding our position in taste and texture ingredients, brings a number of important new technology platforms to Kerry. With the increasing focus by the global food industry on the key areas of health, nutrition and food safety, this acquisition means additional exciting growth opportunities for the group," said Kerry Group chief executive Hugh Friel.