Unilever has received a binding offer from French food and drink group Sill Entreprises to purchase its Knorr liquid soups business in the country.

Financial details of the offer have not been disclosed and Unilever declined to comment on when it expected a decision to be made on the proposed transaction.

Other goods sold under the Knorr brand in France, such as its stock cubes and pots, gravies, instant soups and pasta, would remain under Unilever’s wing if the deal goes through.

The Ben & Jerry’s and Bovril maker refused to say how long both companies had been in discussions around the sale of Knorr’s liquid soups.

Set up in 1962 in Brittany, France, Sill Entreprises already operates in the French soups market with its brand La Potagère.

In 2022, it entered into a partnership with Unilever to produce some of Knorr’s liquid soups.

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Besides soups, the group’s portfolio also includes dairy products such as Malo, and Le Petit Basque yogurts, Le Gall creams and butters, as well as Grandeur Nature cream cheese, and Vitalae infant formula, among others.

It also produces frozen ready meals, puff pastry and appetisers, under the brands Primel Traiteur and La Compagnie Artique.

Commenting on the news, Angela Mejia, managing director of Unilever’s Nutrition business in France, said the company was still “very committed to supporting” Knorr.

She added: “For the specific liquid soups business, we believe that if the decision is taken, Sill Entreprises would be the best player to take charge of these products in the future and gradually integrate them into its portfolio of activities.”

In a statement posted by Sill on LinkedIn, CEO, Sébastien Floc’h said: “This transaction should enable Sill Entreprises to consolidate and develop its positions in the liquid soup market in France and more generally in plant products, which are an integral part of our development strategy.”

He also said that its partnership with Unilever had allowed both sides to “build a trusting industrial relationship… hence the desire to acquire its liquid soup business”.

Floc’h added: “By integrating these Knorr brand products into our group, we would remain faithful to the commitments and values of the Sill Entreprises group, namely to offer a healthy and balanced gourmet and sustainable diet to the whole family, to guarantee the quality of the products, to respect the authenticity of the recipes, to support the vegetable sectors anchored in the territory, preserve the planet.”

Unilever shuttered its Duppigheim soup plant in north-eastern France in 2021 following a dip in demand for its ready-made soups and sauces.

Just Food has asked Unilever to confirm the number of food production sites it presently operates in France.