It’s a real coup for the Japanese firm, which now owns a 200-year-old slice of English heritage through Sarson’s (which is liberally sprinkled over nine in ten portions of chip-shop chips), giving the Asian giant an instant foothold in the slippery UK condiments market.
Mizkan's chief executive, Kazuhide Matazaemon Nakano VIII – now that’s a name – says, ‘We are excited to acquire two strong and iconic brands that have such a deep heritage in the UK. Sarson's and Haywards are beloved by consumers and we look forward to investing in the brands and adding to their legacy.’
Why did Premier sell Britain’s best-selling vinegar brand? It is to concentrate on its eight ‘power brands’ as part of a new stream-lining strategy. Hovis, Oxo, Sharwood’s and Mr Kipling, among others, are now the focus of the group.
Premier’s move from ‘all things to all men’ to eight-brand band was prompted by a financial close shave last year. The firm ran into a spot of bother after taking out large loans to buy up the Fray Bentos and Homepride businesses. And there was also the small matter of its vast pensions deficit. It was forced to renegotiate £1bn in bank debt and had to cut 600 jobs, and trim costs across the board.
Premier is now looking to make some extra cash to meet its repayment deadline in 2016. This means offloading Robertson's marmalade, Angel Delight and Bird's custard this year. And MT bets 100 yen that at least one of these follows Sarson’s, Hayward’s and now Chinese state-owned Weetabix to Asian shores…