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    ConAgra To Pare Refrigerated Meats Biz, Simplify Structure

    OMAHA, Neb. -- ConAgra Foods here said it plans to divest most of its refrigerated meats businesses, including the Armour, Butterball, and Eckrich brands. In addition, the company announced several changes designed to streamline its operating structure, including moving its grocery foods headquarters from Irvine, Calif., to Naperville, Ill., and further centralizing its shared services.

    OMAHA, Neb. -- ConAgra Foods here said it plans to divest most of its refrigerated meats businesses, including the Armour, Butterball, and Eckrich brands. In addition, the company announced several changes designed to streamline its operating structure, including moving its grocery foods headquarters from Irvine, Calif., to Naperville, Ill., and further centralizing its shared services.

    "Our actions today reflect our commitment to simplify operations and to concentrate in areas where we have the strongest competitive positions," said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods president and c.e.o. "They put us in a much better position to execute and drive consistent and sustainable growth."

    The combined annual sales for the businesses being offered for sale -- including Armour meats and hot dogs, Butterball turkey, and Eckrich smoked sausages, hot dogs and lunchmeats -- are about $1.9 billion. Luis Nieto, president of the packaged meats and deli division, will continue to lead the combined business during the sale process, which is expected to take 10-12 months.

    The company said it will continue to manufacture, sell, promote and deliver the products with the highest levels of customer service during this period, and work to assure uninterrupted service through transition to new ownership.

    Neither the company's Healthy Choice brand of meat, nor its Hebrew National, Brown 'N Serve, Slim Jim, and Pemmican businesses are included in the assets for sale.

    Last week Smithfield Foods, Inc., signed a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of the company's Cook's ham business.

    "As we sell these assets, we will scale back our related corporate and shared services infrastructure to ensure that it is the right size for our businesses going forward," said Rodkin. "We expect a number of people directly involved in these operations to be employed by the new owners or offered other jobs within ConAgra Foods."

    ConAgra also said it will realign various operations, including its retail and culinary products businesses, which will be combined to its consumer foods unit, which will manage all consumer brands and foods that are sold by ConAgra Foods to retail and foodservice customers, as well as manage the company's international consumer foods business.

    Dean Hollis, president and chief operating officer, consumer foods, will oversee these businesses, which include dairy, frozen, grocery, packaged meats and deli, snacks, store brands, and international. Greg Heckman, president and c.o.o., commercial products, will oversee the company's Lamb Weston brand of potato products, ingredients brands such as ConAgra Mills, Gilroy Foods and Spicetec, seafood brands such as Louis Kemp, Meridian and Singleton, as well as the ConAgra Foods Trade Group's trading, merchandising and risk management operations.

    The ConAgra Foods Sales organization will assume responsibility for both retail and foodservice customers, with current personnel in culinary foodservice sales joining the company's centralized selling organization. Doug Knudsen, president, ConAgra Foods Sales, will oversee the combined ConAgra Foods sales organization.

    The company's Grocery Foods headquarters will move from Irvine, Calif., to Naperville, Ill. which is currently the headquarters of its dairy and meats businesses. Grocery, which manages the company's shelf-stable products, such as Hunt's, PAM, and Chef Boyardee, will transition people to Illinois by June 1.

    A number of people in shared functions across the company, including product quality and development, sales and operations planning, and transportation and warehousing management, will be relocated to Omaha, Neb., to drive increased collaboration, functional excellence and efficiency.

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