Birds Eye Foods has announced that it will be exiting the vast majority of its non-branded frozen business over the next 12 to 18 months, and plans to sell five related production facilities.

The manufacturer said it has already received a number of unsolicited inquiries about the assets, which will be explored in the coming weeks.

The facilities include Brockport, Bergen and Oakfield, NY, Fairwater, Wisconsin and Montezuma, Georgia, which in total employ approximately 740 full-time workers.

In addition, the decision to exit the non-branded business will affect a number of administrative positions in offices in Rochester, NY and Green Bay, Wisconsin, but the company’s research and development facility will remain in Green Bay.

Any facility not sold after its current production season will be closed between October 2006 and June 2007, Birds Eye added.

Another impact of this decision will be the closure of the Birds Eye facility in Watsonville, California at the end of the calendar year, a facility which employs approximately 550 workers.

The company will now concentrate resources on its branded businesses, and increase focus on new products and marketing.

“An innovative product like Birds Eye Steamfresh is an example of our future,” said Neil Harrison, Birds Eye Foods chairman, president and CEO. “It is a new product that provides value and convenience to consumers, takes advantage of our brand strength, and drives category growth and sales for our retailers.”

Birds Eye added that it will continue to deliver non-branded frozen products to current customers during the next 12 to 18 months.

“We believe there is tremendous potential and trust in the Birds Eye brand and our other brands that we have yet to tap fully,” Harrison continued. “Our non-branded frozen business, with its lower margins, utilised resources which now can be freed up to drive brand growth and to compete more aggressively with competitors who are not producing non-branded lines.”