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    Sara Lee Sells Coffee Division, Buys Tea Brand

    Deal strengthens Sara Lee’s presence in premium tea

    After selling its North American foodservice coffee business to The J.M. Smucker Co. on Jan. 3, Sara Lee Corp. acquired Tea Forte, an ultra premium tea brand.

    Founded in 2003 by former Museum of Modern Art designer Peter Hewitt, the Concord, Mass.-based specialty tea company has established a presence at specialty food retailers, upscale hotels and restaurants in 35 countries. The specialty teas are available in loose leaf and in the company's signature pyramid infuser.

    The deal strengthens Sara Lee’s presence in the ultra premium tea category. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. In 2011, the privately held premium tea company, which offers a line of teawares and brewing accessories, reported revenues of $12 million.

    "Acquiring Tea Forté fits perfectly into our strategy to spin off 'CoffeeTeaCo' as a pure-play coffee and tea company poised for strong growth," said Jan Bennink, executive chairman of the board, Sara Lee Corp.

    CoffeeTeaCo will retain the current management team of Tea Forté to run the business independently before integrating it into its international coffee and tea operations.

    The sale of the majority of Sara Lee's North American foodservice coffee business to The J.M. Smucker Co., which is known for its Dunkin' Donuts and Folgers coffee brands, includes liquid coffee concentrate sold under the Douwe Egberts brand.

    Last January, the Netherlands-based Sara Lee said it would divide into two publicly traded companies: one focused on meats in North America and the other focused on the international coffee and tea market. The split is on track to occur during the first half of this year.

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