Omstead Foods Limited Sells Fish Business to Great Lakes Fish Corporation



    WHEATLEY, ON, Jan. 3 /CNW/ - Omstead Foods Ltd. announced today it has
sold its fish business unit to Great Lakes Fish Corporation, a decision
expected to improve performance and future prospects by allowing both firms to
focus on their respective strengths. Great Lakes recently acquired the fish
processing assets of Southpoint Foods Inc. and has strategically partnered
with L.R. Jackson Fisheries Ltd. Great Lakes is operated and managed by
Southpoint Food's management team.
    "Omstead believes the fish business unit is a strong and viable
business - a significant part of the heritage of our company - that will enjoy
even greater success partnering with a company with Southpoint's track record
and local operating presence" stated Bill Stafford, President, Omstead Foods
Ltd. "We are very proud of the 96-year history of our fish business and the
great team who has built it into one of the leading fish processors on Lake
Erie."
    Jerry Peralta, President of Great Lakes stated: "Omstead is a pillar of
the community, rich in tradition and carries an impeccable reputation in the
marketplace. Great Lakes will continue that legacy and continue to strengthen
the fish business in a controlled manner through new partnerships focused on
increasing market share."
    "The decision to sell the fish business was challenging but one that will
allow us to focus on our core business as a leading North American processor
of frozen vegetables, coated appetizers and frozen fruit." said Mr. Stafford.
"Omstead's fish business unit brings a number of strengths to Great Lakes
including a highly productive employee group with strong skills and an
excellent customer base supported by long-term contracts and impressive
relationships."
    The sale to Great Lakes addresses the need to consolidate fish operations
on Lake Erie, creating critical mass to develop new opportunities by working
with a company focused on growing the fish business. The expertise of Great
Lake's management team brings considerable strength and understanding of the
Lake Erie fish market, an important consideration for Omstead in the sale
process.
    Great Lakes will work closely with Omstead management during a transition
period to ensure customers continue to receive excellent service and premium
products. While acquiring the assets of the fish business unit, Great Lakes
will continue to license the Omstead brand for selected fresh and frozen fish
products.
    "Omstead will now advance our strategic plan by investing in our core
business and pursuing significant growth opportunities in the frozen
vegetable, fruit and appetizer categories," said Mr. Stafford. "Our energy and
focus will create additional momentum through both domestic and international
expansion and an aggressive agenda to develop innovative new products,
packaging formats and processing techniques that will build customer loyalty
and grow our market share."

    About Omstead Foods

    A leading Canadian food processor of frozen vegetables, coated appetizers
and frozen fruit for domestic and international customers, Omstead Foods was
established in 1911. Omstead operates plants in Ontario and British Columbia
and is Canada's only national processor of frozen vegetables and fruit and one
of the largest processor of coated appetizers in North America. Omstead Foods
has more than 500 employees based in Wheatley Ont., Abbotsford and Burnaby
B.C. and its national sales and marketing office in Burlington, Ont.
    The company markets its products within the Retail and Food Service
channels under the Omstead, Steam Ease, Snowcrest, and Delnor brands.
    Omstead also recently launched a national retail brand in Canada called
Steam Ease offering high quality vegetables that steam right in the bag.
    Omstead has extensive processing and packaging operations in Canada,
including a 750,000 sq. foot production facility in Wheatley Ontario, which
produces fruit, vegetables and coated appetizers. In addition they operate
vegetable and fruit processing facilities in Abbotsford and Burnaby B.C.
    Omstead has also owned and operated a fish processing facility in
Wheatley that is serviced by a fleet of specialized vessels, which operate
year round in Lake Erie catching Perch, Smelt, Pickerel, Bass and other
freshwater fish. The fish fleet and processing facilities are being sold to
Great Lakes Fish Corporation in the deal announced today.
    Omstead Foods Limited is owned by TriWest Capital Partners, a Calgary
based equity partner.
    Omstead recently amalgamated its operations with Snowcrest Packers.
Founded in 1959, Snowcrest was Western Canada's largest independent processor
of packaged frozen fruits and vegetables to the retail and foodservice
industries. The merger of the two companies combined operational synergies and
delivered a more diversified customer base. In addition, Omstead became the
only national processor of frozen fruits and vegetables in Canada.
    Products: Omstead is a leading processor of frozen vegetables, fruit and
coated appetizers in Canada. Omstead was one of the first commercial frozen
onion ring manufacturers in North America and the Omstead onion ring has a
strong reputation. In the frozen fish market, Omstead was the largest smelt
producer in Canada and had a reputation for the highest quality, especially in
the Japanese market.

    For more information, contact:

    Blair Hyslop, Vice President of Marketing
    Omstead Foods Limited
    905-315-8883 ext. 228

    Great Lakes Fish Corporation

    Great Lakes Fish Corporation is managed and operated by Jerry and
John Peralta, the former operators of Southpoint Food's Inc., with extensive
experience in the fish processing business. Great Lakes has strategically
partnered with Larry Jackson of LR Jackson Fisheries Ltd. and assembled a key
management team including Albert Testa and Mike Hillhouse to lead the company.
    Great Lakes foresees future expansion in a controlled manner through new
partnerships focused on increasing fishing licenses and market share. The
operations of the company are designed to easily integrate additional
processing operations and capacity.
    Location is a key differentiator for Great Lakes, right in the heart of
the fresh fish industry and close to key export markets in the United States.
    Great Lakes will continue to provide the marketplace and its customers
with the same excellence of quality and level of customer service previously
enjoyed with both Omstead Foods Ltd. and Southpoint Foods Inc.

    For more information, contact:

    Albert Testa
    VP Corporate Strategy and New Business Development
    519-903-7711




For further information:

For further information: Blair Hyslop, Vice President of Marketing,
Omstead Foods Limited, (905) 315-8883 ext. 228; Albert Testa, VP Corporate
Strategy and New Business Development, Great Lakes Fish Corporation, (519)
903-7711

Organization Profile

OMSTEAD FOODS LTD.

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