U.S. investors buy Que. frozen produce firm

Canada’s biggest marketer of imported and domestic frozen vegetables and fruits has a new majority owner.

Catterton Partners, a private equity firm out of Greenwich, Conn., on Wednesday confirmed it’s bought controlling interest in Montreal-based Alasko Foods for an undisclosed sum.

Alasko sources frozen produce from as far away as China, Egypt and Argentina as well as from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and supplies retail, private-label and institutional markets across Canada. Its brands include Moov, Alasko and Y!pi Fruit.

Alasko is billed as a “leading” distributor in the Canadian market with the “broadest product offering” including over 230 different stock-keeping units (SKUs) in all distribution channels.

The company “works with leading suppliers from across the world to plant the best varietals for freezing, select the best crops at harvest, and implement leading-edge individual quick freeze (IQF) technology to ensure consistent product quality.”

Alasko, which has operated for over 20 years, moved to a new 70,000-square foot federally inspected plant in 2003. The company said it handled over 80 million pounds of product last year and “this tonnage is increasing yearly.”

“We look forward to partnering with the Alasko team and leveraging our consumer expertise to capitalize on the significant expansion opportunities we see in Canada as well as in the U.S., which has a large and growing frozen fruit and vegetable market,” Marc-David Bismuth, an operating partner at Catterton Partners, said in the company’s release Wednesday.

Catterton’s investment portfolio includes bottled water firm Naya Inc. of Montreal, yogurt maker Breyers, beverage firm Odwalla, snack food maker Kettle Foods, frozen waffle maker Van’s Natural Foods and Nature’s Variety, a dog and cat food processor.

The company also holds stakes in the U.S. casual dining chains Outback Steakhouse and Cheddar’s.

“Together with Catterton, Alasko will be well positioned to capitalize on exciting opportunities to further expand our business and enhance our market position in North America,” Alasko chairman Platon Gavrielatos said in the same release.

“I am very proud of what our team has accomplished and equally excited about our future with the strategic and financial support from Catterton.”

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