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LI's Kozy Shack to be bought by Land O'Lakes

Quality control employee Tejas Vakharia takes a taste

Quality control employee Tejas Vakharia takes a taste of a Kozy Shack product at the grading table as he and chief executive Robert Striano sample some of the company’s products. (June 16, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Kozy Shack Enterprises Inc., the Hicksville-based maker of rice pudding and other desserts, will be purchased by the giant food cooperative Land O'Lakes, the companies announced.

Terms of the deal, including the purchase price, were not made public.

Kozy Shack has deep roots on Long Island. It was started by Vincent Gruppuso in a Queens factory in 1967, moved to Mineola in 1977 and has been in Hicksville for 18 years.

Gruppuso died in 2008 and ownership of the pudding maker transferred to his three daughters.

Officials at Arden Hills, Minn.-based Land O'Lakes said Wednesday there are no plans to close Kozy Shack's local operation, where 318 people work. The new owner intends to continue operating the production and distribution facilities, its spokeswoman Trish Scorpio said.

That's good news for Nassau County, where some officials have been concerned that Kozy Shack would pull up stakes after a package of tax breaks expires in 2019.

Referring to a minimum employment threshold he is seeking from the company, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said, "I have put forth an aggressive plan to retain these 200 jobs and attract Land O'Lakes to take root here on Long Island."

The county and New York State joined in 2008 to help Kozy Shack expand in Hicksville, including a land purchase and building renovations.

The $10.5 million project received tax breaks from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and a $337,000 grant and utility-bill reduction from the state. In return, Kozy Shack pledged to add 35 workers to its then-payroll of 323.

Kozy Shack also has factories in California and Ireland. Over the years, it has developed a reputation for being a good employer, earning national recognition for the adoption benefits offered to workers.

A Kozy Shack representative referred all questions Wednesday to Land O'Lakes.

Kozy Shack's sales in 2011 were about $200 million, according to Standard & Poor's.

Land O'Lakes is the nation's second-largest food cooperative with sales of nearly $13 billion. Chief executive Chris Policinksi said Kozy Shack "is comprised of great people, first-rate production facilities, and products that exceed the consumer's expectation for quality."

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