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Hain Celestial buys Canadian frozen food brand

Hain Celestial Group chief executive Irwin Simon at

Hain Celestial Group chief executive Irwin Simon at his Melville headquarters. Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2009

The Hain Celestial Group, of Melville, has bought a Canadian natural foods brand, Europe's Best.

The acquisition brings Hain a line of about two dozen products -- fruits and vegetables in different combinations -- that are sold in Canada under the motto, "We only freeze the best." Among its newest products is a packet combining frozen red sour cherries, sweet cherries and black currants.

Hain, whose shares were down in early trading Tuesday by $0.37 to $30.80, said the buy would benefit its investors by adding to this year's earnings.

Revenue and profit histories were not available for the Markham, Ontario, brand, a division of Smucker Foods of Canada Corp.

Hain did not immediately disclose how much it paid J.M. Smucker Co. for the brand, which includes lines of frozen fruit and vegetables with high levels of vitamins A, C, and E and other antioxidants. The transaction took place Oct. 5.

 Hain Celestial chief executive Irwin Simon said he expects to increase the brand's overall sales in Canada by adding it to Hain's marketing and distribution system there. He described the acquisition "the assets and business of the Europe's Best brand of all natural, frozen fruit and vegetable products in Canada."

Hain reported in August that it nearly doubled its year-to-year profit during a period when it gained greater attention among investors as activist investor Carl Icahn upped his stake in Hain to more than 16 percent of outstanding shares.

Icahn also successfully pressured Hain to accept two board members of his choosing -- including his son.

During the year, Hain Celestial bought numerous smaller companies, notably The Greek Gods line of Mediterranean-style yogurts.

It finished fiscal 2011, on June 30, with a very strong final quarter with net sales of $292 million, up from $222.7 million in the same quarter last year, and net profit for the quarter of $12.8 million, up from $6.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

For the full year, net sales were up 23 percent over the previous fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, and net income was up 92 percent. Annual sales were $1.13 billion, up from $917 million the previous year, and profit was $54.9 million, up from $29.6 million the previous year.

The company reported yearly earnings of $1.23 per diluted share, compared to earnings of $0.69 per diluted share in the prior year.

Hain said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that its "growth momentum continued across its worldwide portfolio of brands in various classes of trade including natural, grocery, club, mass and dot-com channels coupled with contributions from strategic acquisitions."

Simon, who publicly said he had been collaborative and collegial in his response to Icahn's interest in Hain, said in the annual report that the year ended with the best three-month period in its history. He also said he expected continued strong profits and sales, and noted that Hain "delivered productivity savings in excess of $17 million." 

Photo: Hain Celestial Group chief executive Irwin Simon at his Melville headquarters.

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