Unilever sell Bertolli in major oil deal

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd July 2008

Unilever, the world’s second largest consumer group company, has announced the sale of Bertolli Olive Oil and Vinegar to the Spanish-based Grupo SOS, owner of the Carbonell brand, for €630m. The sale will make Grupo SOS the owner of the two strongest olive oil brands in the world (based on sales).

The transaction is structured as a worldwide, perpetual licence by Unilever of the Bertolli brand in respect of olive oil and premium vinegar and also includes the sale of the Italian Maya, Dante, and San Giorgio olive oil and seed oil businesses.

Unilever will, however, retain the Bertolli brand for all other categories including margarine, pasta sauces, and frozen meals. Unilever has outlined in a statement that they still consider the Bertolli brand a priority “with strong growth plans based on capturing the growing appetite for Mediterranean food products”.

Vindi Banga, Unilever President for Foods, Home and Personal Care, believes the sale will be able to improve the business. “Bertolli is a brand leader in olive oils in Europe, the US and Australia, and we believe that Grupo SOS, with their deep expertise in this category, will further strengthen the business,” he said. “We look forward to working with Grupo SOS to continue to build the Bertolli brand and to create further value.”

Jesus Salazar, Grupo SOS Chairman, added that, with increased global interest in the Mediterranean diet, the purchase of Bertolli provides a great opportunity for SOS. “With Bertolli, we inherit the great job done by Unilever in olive oil,” he suggested. “This transaction is absolutely strategic to Grupo SOS and it reinforces us as worldwide leaders in olive oil. We share our focus on the Mediterranean diet with Unilever, and benefits will accrue to both our groups and to the consumer”.

The combined turnover of Bertolli olive oil and vinegar and the Maya, Dante and San Giorgio businesses was around €380m in 2007 and the sale is part of Unilever’s announced plans to dispose of non-strategic brands with collectively more than €2 billion in turnover.

The agreement, which is subject to the relevant regulatory approvals in Italy, America and Germany, is expected to close during 2008.