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Friday, February 03, 2006

ConAgra Foods to Sell Eckrich, Armour, Butterball

Eckrich Meats Back on the Butcher's Block

Peter Eckrich & Sons was one of Fort Wayne's best-known hometown companies. Then, after a series of sales, the Eckrich meat-packing plant was shuttered and the headquarters were moved to Chicago.

Today, the Eckrich meat brand was put back on the block. ConAgra announced today it will be selling the Eckrich, Armour, and Butterball brands. Some analysts believe it may make a good fit for the cash rich Sara Lee Corp. However, Tyson Foods and others have also showed an interest.

ConAgra will be holding on to its brands of Healthy Choice and the formerly Indianapolis-based Hebrew National.

John Schmeltzer reported in the Chicago Tribune:
Armour, Butterball and Eckrich are middle-market brands that have slipped in importance in recent years as American consumer tastes have shifted.

The three brands have sales of $1.9 billion annually and are made in 15 refrigerated meat plants employing 6,000 people in nine states. The company said it would expect that the new owner of the business would retain most of those workers.


The proposed sale puts the once-proud brands owned by the former Esmark Corp., which was based in Chicago, on the road again. In a space of two years in the 1980s, the Armour, Butterball and Eckrich brands were sold twice in management-led buyouts that resulted in the company's name being changed to Beatrice. While the sales made the managers rich, the brands suffered and slipped lower in importance to the American consumer.

In the early 1990s, the Beatrice name was scrubbed from the door when Omaha-based ConAgra acquired the Armour, Butterball and Eckrich brands along with Swift and Peter Pan.
The Peter Eckrich historical summary can be found here.

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