ConAgra Foods is set to become the nation's biggest maker of store-brand foods, with a $5 billion purchase of Ralcorp that expands its stake in cereals, crackers and other packaged foods sold under private labels.

The deal announced Tuesday caps a year of acquisitions for ConAgra, which makes brands including Banquet, Chef Boyardee and Marie Callender's. The company, based in Omaha, also made multiple attempts to buy Ralcorp last year.

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The latest bid for Ralcorp comes at a time when private-label brands -- also known as store brands or house brands -- are gaining popularity with price-conscious shoppers. Supermarkets and drugstores have also been working to improve the image of their brands as a way to control the rising costs for name brands.

In a conference call with analysts, ConAgra CEO Gary Rodkin said private-label products are growing at twice the rate of name brands and now account for 18 percent of the overall packaged food market.

In a new report this week, however, market researcher SymphonyIRI wrote that the growth of private label products has ebbed, and faces "pockets of growth," rather than a general expansion.

Separately Tuesday, Ralcorp attributed an 8 percent increase in net sales to acquisitions and higher prices, which offset lower volumes.

Ralcorp shares jumped $18.57, or 26.44 percent, to close at $88.80. ConAgra gained $1.34, or 4.74 percent, to $29.63.