Productos Columbia, producer of Banquete brand tomato sauce, was purchased
outright by Heinz of the US during the second week of March. At the time
of acquisition, the name of the company changed to Alimentos Heinz de Costa
. The purchase underscores Heinz’s plans to expand its presence in Central
America and the Caribbean.

The Banquete brand will remain and the company’s product line will continue
to be distributed by Distribuidora Banquete, which was also acquired
by Heinz. Over the past 52 years the Banquete brand of tomato sauce has carved
out a strong market share in Costa Rica, achieving sales in the range of US$12m
in 2000.

Heinz acquired Productos Columbia at a time when the latter was only beginning
to expand its presence in the Caribbean and other Central American nations.
Heinz is likely to press ahead with the international expansion. The ownership
transition is expected to take approximately six months and is simplified by
the fact that no immediate personnel changes are expected. Technological upgrades
are expected which will increase efficiency and production capacity.

By Steve Lewis, correspondent