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Soup maker Baxters sells Canadian arm

Former SoupExperts business back under Quebec ownership

The Canadian business of Scottish soup and condiment maker Baxters Food Group is back in Canadian hands, including private, public and labour-sponsored Quebec investors.

Provincial venture capital firm Investissement Quebec and labour-sponsored Fonds de solidarite FTQ and Fondaction announced Tuesday they would each put up $8 million, plus an unspecified amount from investors led by Montreal private equity firm Champlain Financial, to buy the Baxters Canada business, based in St-Hyacinthe, Que.

Baxters Canada makes the Baxters brand of soups and sauces and various private-label products for grocery chains and businesses. It also makes Aylmer and Primo soups in Canada, using those brands under license from U.S. processor ConAgra Brands and Toronto-based Primo Foods respectively.

The business’ roots in Quebec date back to 1976, when it began as SoupExperts, making ready-to-eat vacuum-packed foods for Canada’s armed forces.

Baxters — based in the Highlands about 75 km northeast of Inverness since 1868, and in the soup business since 1929 — bought the St-Hyacinthe operation in 2004.

The Scottish company said at the time it planned to use the St-Hyacinthe facilities as its launch pad to expand in the Canadian branded soup market.

The Canadian business, under the name Baxters Canada, bought the combined Aylmer and Primo soup businesses from CanGro Foods in 2007 and later consolidated all its Canadian processing at St-Hyacinthe.

The St-Hyacinthe plant, on property Baxters sold last September and has since leased back, today covers about 90,000 square feet and employs nearly 200 people.

According to Baxters’ annual report for the year ending April 1, 2017, the plant produced over 84 million cans of food that year for revenues of $61.2 million.

“With this acquisition, the Fonds can help fuel the growth of agri-food exports and position a Quebec company in a mature sector that is undergoing consolidation in Canada,” Alain Denis, senior vice-president with Fonds de solidarite FTQ, said in a release.

Baxters Canada, he noted, “is poised to penetrate the U.S. and Mexican markets as well as develop new products.”

Baxters Canada CEO Daniel Cousineau, also noting the company’s “ambitious growth plan that includes acquisitions and geographic diversification,” said the Quebec funds “share our vision and have the expertise and financial wherewithal to allow us to achieve our objectives.” — AGCanada.com Network

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