Perdue in pact to buy De Luca Poultry producer moves to expand line of prepared foods

Food processing

June 17, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Perdue Farms Inc., taking another step into the prepared-food business, said yesterday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire De Luca Inc., a manufacturer of Italian entrees and sauces marketed under the brand name Ed & Joan De Luca.

Both companies are private, and the purchase price was not disclosed.

"This opens the door to our entry into Italian foods: lasagna, macaroni and cheese and meatballs," said Richard C. Auletta, a spokesman for Salisbury-based Perdue. "Maybe we can integrate chicken into some Italian dishes."

Chairman James A. Perdue sees the move as an expansion of the company's involvement in the rapidly growing market for prepared home meals.

That includes cooked foods such as rotisserie chickens, and packaged dinners that can be popped into the oven and onto the table in minutes.

"Perdue has a history of adding value to its products and services," Perdue said in a statement. "From parts to boneless and skinless products to seasoned and fully cooked items."

He said the proposed acquisition supports his company's goal of becoming the industry leader in the field of fully cooked meals.

De Luca Inc., based in Middlebury, Conn., was founded in 1978 by Ed De Luca as a group of award-winning restaurants and Italian stores.

Over the past 10 years, the company has moved into the !B prepared-food business and the distribution of brand-name entrees.

Ed De Luca will remain active with the company and will continue to focus on development of market opportunities.

De Luca's management and employees will remain with the company, which will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Perdue.

Perdue Farms, founded in 1920, identifies itself as the largest integrated poultry producer in the Northeast and the third-largest in the United States.

With annual sales estimated at about $2 billion, it is about one-third the size of industry leader Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, Ark.

Perdue's prepared meals are sold nationwide. The company moved into the prepared-food business several years ago and recently converted an antiquated chicken processing plant in Concord, N.C., into a cooking operation.

Perdue operates a second prepared-food processing plant in Bridgewater, Ind.

Perdue produces abut 87 million chickens in Maryland each year. It employs about 2,300, and its annual payroll is about $65 million.

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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