Unilever sells Ragu and Bertolli brands, including plant in Stockton

Ragu pasta sauce being bought by Japanese condiment maker

Consumer goods maker Unilever said Thursday that it was selling its Ragu and Bertolli brands to Japanese sauce company Mizkan Group for $2.15 billion.

The deal includes two production facilities -- a tomato processing plant in Stockton and a sauce processing and packaging plant in Owensboro, Ky.

Unilever, which is headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and London, said the sale was its latest effort to reshape its business in North America. The company has a big roster of popular consumer brands such as Dove, Ben & Jerry's and Vaseline.

In April, Unilever said it was undertaking a strategic review of its pasta sauce business and also its Slim-Fast diet food brand. The company last year sold its Skippy peanut butter and Wish-Bone salad dressing brands.

The latest deal "enables us to sharpen our focus within our food business," said Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America, in a statement.

Ragu and Bertolli, which produce best-selling pasta sauces and olive oils, together generate annual revenue of more than $600 million, Unilever said.

The pasta brands are heading to Mizkan, a privately held Japanese company that has made sauces and condiments for more than two centuries. In recent years, Mizkan has sought to expand its business internationally beyond the Japanese market.

Unilever said the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of June.

Shares of Unilever fell 46 cents, or 1%, to $44.97 in midday trading Thursday.

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