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No. 352, January 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

The U.S. margarine business has a new number-two supplier behind market leader UNILEVER N.V. At an estimated cost of $59.8 million, VENTURA FOODS, LLC bought margarine producer SUNNYLAND REFINING CO. of Birmingham, Alabama. Ventura Foods -- a City of Industry, California- headquartered manufacturer of edible vegetable oils and related products that is owned by MITSUI & CO., LTD. (54 percent), HONEN CORP. and CENEX HARVEST STATES COOPERATIVES -- already was strong in commercial-use margarine but was weak in the retail margarine market. The purchase of Sunnyland, which has annual sales of approximately $85.5 million, remedied this shortfall as well as better positioned Ventura Foods to compete in the southern part of the United States. The Mitsui affiliate is projecting FY 1999 sales of $1.1 billion.

ASAHI BREWERIES, LTD. wants to double its U.S. sales to 2 million cases in 1999. To reach that target, Japan's second-largest beer company will beef up its distribution network, which now includes many MILLER BREWING CO. wholesalers. Asahi and Miller set up a Los Angles marketing company in March 1998 in which the Japanese partner has a 90 percent stake (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 341, February 1998, p. 5). Among other strategies, Asahi hopes to get its beer into nationwide supermarket chains.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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