Attention pasta lovers: Ragú and Bertolli have just changed hands.
Now the Mizkan Group—a Japanese company with a 210-year history in rice vinegar—holds an 11.6% share of worldwide pasta sauce sales. That’s more than twice as big a market share as its closest rival, Prego (at just 5.7%).
If you’ve ever eaten Japanese food that involves rice vinegar—such as, let’s say, sushi rice—you’ve probably had one of Mizkan’s rice vinegar varieties.
Unilever just sold both its Ragú and Bertolli brands to Mizkan for $2.15 billion. Why would a company want to get rid of the single most popular brand of jarred pasta sauce in the world? CEO Paul Polman wants to shift Unilever’s focus to personal and home care brands, which have higher profit margins than food, according to the Telegraph.
Additionally, Nielsen sales data shows that the U.S. jarred pasta sauce market has been slowing down from 2012 to the present, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. While Ragú still maintains its hold on the market, other brands are gaining on it. Unilever just wanted to quit while it was winning the game.
What’s in it for Mizkan? The company already has 15 manufacturing plants in the U.S. alone, reports FoodNavigator Asia. Mizkan CEO Kazuhide Nakano said, “This transaction represents an important milestone in our global expansion strategy.” In addition to owning the global pasta sauce market, Mizkan is adding a further two U.S.-based production facilities to its holdings with this deal.
We think Mizkan just wants a lock on the spaghetti Napolitan market. While a popsicle version may not sound appealing, Just Hungry explains that the Japanese pasta favorite is probably the first-ever example of wafuu-pasta, or pasta made with Japanese ingredients. The food form dates back to post-WWII Japan, and helps show just how small the food world really is.
Also, everybody loves good pasta. Everybody.