Monterey Gourmet Foods acquires 80% stake in Sonoma Cheese

by Staff
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SALINAS, CALIF. — Monterey Gourmet Foods, Inc. has acquired 80% ownership of Sonoma Foods, Inc., d.b.a. Sonoma Cheese Company, a leading marketer of refrigerated specialty cheese products, Monterey Gourmet Foods officials announced today. Monterey Gourmet Foods paid $3.5 million in cash and stock for 80% of the company.

Sonoma's two other shareholders retain a combined 20% interest, and the acquisition agreement provides options for them to sell their remaining interest after seven years. Sonoma will continue to operate under its current management with its board of directors augmented by representatives of Monterey Gourmet Foods.

With annual sales of over $8 million Sonoma markets a variety of refrigerated branded specialty cheese items, including their flagship products, Sonoma Jack Cheeses in a variety of flavors. Their products are sold in retail supermarkets, club stores, and specialty food stores across the US with the greatest penetration in the Western US markets.

Founded in 1931, Sonoma will celebrate 75 years in the cheese business in 2006 and mark its 25th year of pioneering Hot Pepper Jack Cheese.

Jim Williams, Monterey Gourmet's president and chief executive officer, said the acquisition supports the company's growth strategy in the specialty premium refrigerated food category.

"Sonoma Cheese is positioned in the fast growing gourmet segment of the large cheese category," Mr. Williams said. "Like MGF, they compete in the refrigerated sections of food stores so there are several synergies available between our companies. We envision expanding the Sonoma brand and increasing distribution."

Monterey Gourmet Foods manufactures fresh gourmet refrigerated food products at its integrated 143,000-square-foot corporate headquarters, distribution and manufacturing facilities in Salinas; its organic food production facility in Eugene, Ore; and its recently acquired facility in Seattle, Wash.

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