SAN FRANCISCO -- The prospective head of Van de Kamp's here plans to counteract slack frozen seafood sales with heavier promotion, which he said has been lacking in the segment.
irman and is the managing partner of Dartford Partnership, a private investment group here.
Dartford and Fenway Partners, a recently formed New York-based private investment firm, agreed to acquire Van de Kamp's from Pillsbury, Minneapolis, last month for $190 million. Fenway would be the major equity investor.
"[Van de Kamp's] is a [top] brand nationally, and it's a high-margin business," Wilson explained. "So we think there's a real opportunity to grow both the product and the category."
Other frozen seafood brands like Gorton's, which General Mills sold to Unilever earlier this year, also are slated to step up their marketing, Wilson noted.
"I expect that [Unilever] will do something. We certainly will do something. And look for that segment to grow," he said.
Pillsbury agreed to sell Van de Kamp's to focus on its core brands, according to Rob Longendyke, a company spokesman. "Neither the [frozen seafood] category nor the particular brand fits with our overall strategy," he said.
Under the deal, which may be subject to regulatory approval, Pillsbury also agreed to sell two frozen dessert brands -- Oronoque pie shells and Pet-Ritz cream pies and cobblers -- plus some private-label brands of whipped toppings. "The frozen desserts part is a very small piece of the overall transaction," Longendyke said. Pillsbury first purchased Van de Kamp's in 1984 and then sold it to Whitman Corp. in 1989. In 1991, Van de Kamp's was spun off to Whitman stockholders as part of Pet Inc. Pillsbury regained ownership of the company when it bought Pet in February.
Dartford Partnership's current holdings include New Age Beverages, the Pepsi-Cola franchisee in South Africa and Windy Hill Pet Food. Previous investments by Dartford include Roush Products Co., White Lily Foods Co. and Wyndham Baking Co.