Tatas enter processed foods biz, buy 70% in Innovative Foods

Tatas enter processed foods biz, buy 70% in Innovative Foods

Kochi: As part of its foray into the business of processed foods, the Tata Group has acquired a 70% stake in Kochi-based Innovative Foods Ltd (IFL), known for its processed food items that are sold under the brand name ‘Sumeru’.

The acquisition of a majority stake in Innovative Foods, which was finalized recently for an undisclosed amount, has been through Residency Foods & Beverages Ltd (RFBL), a subsidiary of Tata’s Indian Hotels Co. Ltd (IHCL).

Innovative Foods, which is a part of the Amalgam Group, led by A.J. Tharakan, who is also the national president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India, has been in the frozen and ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food business.

It has a range of products in its repertoire, that includes seafood items, paranthas, breaded snacks, samosas, spring rolls, and curries. Over the past few years, the brand has found its way on to the shelves of major retail stores, restaurants and also major players such as McDonald’s, KFC Corp. and Pizza Hut Inc.

A spokesperson from Tata said the group had identified the processed foods sector as an emerging business with great potential.

As part of its plans to diversify into the various sub-segments in the foods business, Residency Foods has also has entered into an exclusive agreement with Vishakapatnam-based seafood company, Jasper Aqua Exports Pvt. Ltd recently. The new initiative will help Tata extend its seafood products line in the value-added category.

Jasper Aqua will manufacture products exclusively for the RFBL product portfolio and help it make a foray into the East Asian markets.

R. K. Krishnakumar, vice-chairman of IHCL, said the acquisition of Innovative Foods and the agreement with Jasper outlines the company’s strategic interest in the processed foods business.

“We strongly believe in leveraging our in-house expertise in the group with fast-moving consumer goods, foods, beverages and retail businesses," he said.

“We are confident that IFL and the Sumeru brand will grow," he added. The spokesperson said IFL’s processing units in Kochi is an advantage because of the proximity to the source of raw materials. The Tatas propose to invest funds to upgrade the plant to raise it to world-class standards.

Innovative Foods has a presence in the overseas market, which the Tatas would leverage to increase business in the US, Europe, West Asia, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Mauritius and Australia.

Investments would also be made to expand distribution network, logistics, product range and brand-building, for which the Tatas have formed a new team that will be led by Sheila Nair, who has been ppointed CEO. Tharakan is expected to continue to head the company affairs division.