ConAgra Foods Inc is looking to divest most of its refrigerated meats businesses, including the Armour, Butterball, and Eckrich brands. In addition, the company announced several changes designed to streamline its operating structure, including moving its Grocery Foods headquarters from Irvine, California, to Naperville, Illinois, and further centralising its shared services.

“Our actions today reflect our commitment to simplify operations and to concentrate in areas where we have the strongest competitive positions,” said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods president and chief executive officer. “They put us in a much better position to execute and drive consistent and sustainable growth.”

The combined annual sales for the businesses being offered for sale are about US$1.9 billion, the company said. The businesses include Armour meats and hot dogs, Butterball turkey, and Eckrich smoked sausages, hot dogs and lunchmeats.

A statement said that Luis Nieto, president, Packaged Meats and Deli, will continue to lead the combined meats business during the sale process, which is expected to take 10-12 months.

“The company will continue to manufacture, sell, promote and deliver these quality products with the highest levels of customer service during this period, and work to assure uninterrupted service through transition to new ownership,” the statement said.
Neither the company’s Healthy Choice brand of meat, nor its Hebrew National, Brown ‘N Serve, Slim Jim, and Pemmican businesses are included in the assets for sale. Last week Smithfield Foods, Inc., signed a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of the company’s Cook’s ham business.

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“As we sell these assets, we will scale back our related corporate and shared services infrastructure to ensure that it is the right size for our businesses going forward,” said Rodkin. “We expect a number of people directly involved in these operations to be employed by the new owners or offered other jobs within ConAgra Foods.”

Meanwhile ConAgra Foods also announced the realignment of various operations. The company’s retail and culinary products businesses will be combined to form Consumer Foods. It will manage all consumer brands and foods that are sold by ConAgra Foods to retail and foodservice customers, as well as manage the company’s international consumer foods business. Dean Hollis, president and chief operating officer, consumer foods, will oversee these businesses, which include dairy, frozen, grocery, packaged meats and deli, snacks, store Brands, and international.

Greg Heckman, president and chief operating officer, commercial products, will oversee the company’s Lamb Weston brand of potato products, ingredients brands such as ConAgra Mills, Gilroy Foods and Spicetec, seafood brands such as Louis Kemp, Meridian and Singleton, as well as the ConAgra Foods trade group’s trading, merchandising and risk management operations.

The ConAgra foods sales organisation will assume responsibility for both retail and foodservice customers, with current personnel in culinary foodservice sales joining the company’s centralised selling organization.

The company’s grocery foods headquarters will move from Irvine, Calif., to Naperville, Ill. which is currently the headquarters of its dairy and meats businesses. Grocery, which manages the company’s shelf-stable products, such as Hunt’s, PAM, and Chef Boyardee, will transition people to Illinois by 1 June.

In connection with the organisational changes, the company expects to take cash and non-cash accounting charges. The company also expects that it will take a non-cash charge to adjust the book value of the assets to be sold, including related goodwill. The timing and amount of these charges, as well as any related benefits, are currently being analyzed and will be announced at a later date.

“We look forward to sharing details of the impact of these decisions in our investors’ meeting in March,” said Rodkin. “These are only part of our broader plans to drive sustainable top- and bottom-line growth.”