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US food company Monterey Gourmet Foods has acquired 80% ownership of the Sonoma Cheese Company it said today (Monday).

Monterey paid $3.5m in cash and stock for the stake. Sonoma’s two other shareholders retain a combined 20% interest, and the acquisition agreement provides options for them to sell their remaining interest after seven years. Sonoma will continue to operate under its current management with its board of directors augmented by representatives of Monterey, it said.

With annual sales of over $8m Sonoma markets a variety of refrigerated branded specialty cheese items, including their flagship products, Sonoma Jack cheeses in a variety of flavours.

Their products are sold in retail supermarkets, club stores, and specialty food stores across the US with the greatest penetration in the Western US markets. Some of their most popular cheese flavours include Hot Pepper Jack, Garlic Jack, Mediterranean Jack and Pesto Jack.

“Sonoma represents a valuable addition to Monterey Gourmet Foods. This acquisition supports our growth strategy in the specialty premium refrigerated food category, and Sonoma’s unique flavoured cheeses fit well with today’s consumers’ interest in unique food choices,” said Jim Williams, Monterey’s president and CEO.

“We are very pleased to be working with (Sonoma) president David Viviani, a third generation cheese maker, and CEO Marty Adams who bring a long history of successful food industry experience. They are the right team to head up our efforts in this new endeavour,” he said.

Sonoma’s David Viviani said, “Monterey Gourmet’s high-quality products are a great fit with Sonoma Cheese. Through this new partnership, we see many opportunities to expand and strengthen the Sonoma brands.”