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March 12, 2012

US: ContiGroup fund takes control of Wholesome Sweeteners

The investment arm of US agribusiness giant ContiGroup has secured a majority stake in local organic and Fair Trade sugar supplier Wholesome Sweeteners.

By Dean Best

The investment arm of US agribusiness giant ContiGroup has secured a majority stake in local organic and Fair Trade sugar supplier Wholesome Sweeteners.

Arlon Group has acquired the 50% of Wholesome Sweeteners owned by US sugar giant Imperial Sugar. It has also purchased shares held by the second shareholder in the venture, privately-held UK agribusiness firm and food manufacturer Edward Billington & Son.

Wholesome Sweeteners was set up by Imperial Sugar and Edward Billington & Son in 2001 and sells organic and Fair Trade sugar, syrup, honey and sweeteners.

Nigel Willerton, Wholesome Sweeteners’ CEO, will remain with the Texas-based firm. He said: “Arlon are quality food focused and will provide the support and stability that will allow the business to reach the next level in our growth and development. Together we will capitalize on our strengths and leadership position to enhance our brand and explore expansion into other organic food categories.”

Arlon managing principal Michelle Brooks said the fund was “delighted” to team up with Wholesome Sweeteners and would “support the continued growth” of the business.

The Arlon fund, established in 2008, owns ethnic foods firm Excelline Food Products and soup manufacturer Kettle Cuisine.

ContiGroup, formed in 1813, has operations in the US, Asia and Latin America. Its US assets include poultry processor Wayne Farms.

The now minority shareholder in Wholesome Sweeteners, Edward Billington & Son, has UK condiments manufacturer The English Provender Co. among its businesses.

In January, Imperial Sugar reported annual losses of over $53m and said it was considering more disposals in the wake of its decision in December to sell its stake in the Louisiana Sugar Refining venture.

Imperial said its net proceeds from the sale of its Wholesome Sweeteners stake would be $55-60m in cash.

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