Splitting up doesn't make sense for Heinz

H.J. Heinz Co. Chairman, President and CEO William R. Johnson told shareholders that he has no interest in selling off his company's frozen food business, despite suggestions from analysts that the Pittsburgh ketchup maker might want to follow the lead of other food industry players in splitting its operations, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 

Kraft Foods is creating two public companies by breaking up its North American grocery lines and its snack foods even as Sara Lee divides its meats from its beverages. That doesn't make sense for Heinz, said Johnson, who noted the company just opened a new frozen foods plant in Florence, S.C., and said he sees products such as Smart Ones and Ore-Ida as core to the company's U.S. business.

The only comment when the company opened the floor for questions came from Philip Wiener, of Oakland, who said he was going on 96. "I'm glad to be here. I like the increase in the dividend and you're doing a swell job," said Mr. Wiener. Earlier this year, Heinz raised its annual dividend payout to $1.92 per share.

 

"You're obviously a very wise man," responded a smiling Johnson, who noted that Heinz 57 sauce is 100 years old, just four years older than Mr. Wiener.

 

Heinz will begin to roll out more products in smaller sizes at lower entry-level price points. "That's what the consumers said they wanted," Johnson said.