Nestle has said it is “considering alternative options” for its Lean Cuisine healthy living brand in Australia after Simplot, which manufactures and markets the product there, announced it is exiting the frozen meals category.

Switzerland-based food giant Nestle said the options it is considering include selecting a new manufacturing and distribution partner.

Simplot Australia said it will not be renewing its licence agreement to manufacture and market Lean Cuisine in Australia from the end of November 2019. It has produced and distributed Lean Cuisine under licence since 2009. 

The decision is part of a broader review which will see the company exit the frozen meals category to concentrate on its core capabilities in potatoes, vegetables, seafood, pasta and sauces.

Simplot Australia – which is owned by the US agri-food giant J.R. Simplot – was established in 1995 and supplies major brands on a contract basis to large Australian supermarket groups and foodservice customers.

Its decision to exit the frozen foods category will almost certainly mean the closure of its facility in Pakenham, near Melbourne, where around 150 people are employed.

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In a statement sent to just-food, Simplot Australia said: “Simplot Australia has announced a strategic decision to exit the frozen meals category to concentrate on its core capabilities in potatoes, vegetables, seafood, pasta and sauces.

“As a result of this decision, and following an extensive review, Simplot Australia has announced the proposed closure of its Pakenham manufacturing facility.

“The decision coincides with the end of long-term manufacturing agreements that are due to conclude in November 2019.”

Simplot Australia managing director Graham Dugdale said: “To ensure customers and consumers experience a smooth transition we are developing plans to consolidate other Simplot products currently produced at Pakenham into the wider Simplot network.

“We do not envisage any impact to our current supply and trading relationships.”

Products currently manufactured at the Pakenham site include chilled pasta and sauce, potato pommes and frozen meals.

No other Simplot manufacturing sites will be impacted, the company said.

Simplot said it is aiming to provide a final decision on the proposed closure by the end of September.