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Kraft Considering Selling Birds Eye Frozen Vegetables Unit : Corporations: The 'very healthy' division has 25 employees in Orange marketing and sales headquarters.

September 29, 1993|SUSAN CHRISTIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORANGE — Kraft Inc. said Tuesday it might sell its venerable Birds Eye frozen vegetable business, which is headquartered in Orange.

Birds Eye has 900 employees nationwide, 25 of whom work in the marketing and sales office here. Kraft said "several interested parties" are considering a purchase, but did not identify prospective buyers.

General Foods introduced Birds Eye frozen vegetables and fruits in 1930. In the mid-1980s, Philip Morris Cos. bought both General Foods and Kraft Inc., combining the two to form Kraft General Foods, based in Glenview, Ill.

"We're exploring different strategic options, and one option is to sell Birds Eye," said Linda Eatherton, a Kraft spokeswoman.

Eatherton described Birds Eye as "a very healthy business." However, analysts said the vegetable processing business is cyclical and does not reliably produce a high return.

"Philip Morris is trying to rid itself of low-profit assets," said Lawrence Adelman, a vice president at Dean Witter brokerage in New York.

Ron Burry, an analyst with Kidder, Peabodybrokerage in New York, said that Birds Eye has been hurt by a couple of consumer trends.

"It has not kept up with the movement toward low-calorie and gourmet frozen entrees," Burry said. "Also, there has been a movement by the consumer toward fresh fruits and vegetables. Those two forces have worked against Birds Eye."

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