Prepared Foods of March 21, 2005 enewsletter

Princesse and Sir Laurier d'Arthabaska, two historic cheese brands from central Quebec, are falling into the basket of Saputo Inc.

Montreal-based Saputo announced it had bought the cheese-making and distribution businesses of Fromage Cote S.A. and Distributions Kingsey Inc. for C$54 million in cash.

The businesses include pressed cheddar and cheddar cheese curd, Swiss-type cheese and other specialty cheeses sold under the brand names Kingsey, Princesse, Sir Laurier d'Arthabaska and Du Village de Warwick.

Privately held Fromage Cote and Distributions Kingsey employ 401 people at Quebec plants in Warwick and Plessisville, at a cheese-aging center in Victoriaville and at a cutting and distribution center in Boucherville. The company's annual revenues are about $110 million.

The small cheese company was established by brothers George and Yvon Cote in 1976, when they bought a century-old cheese maker at Kingsey Falls.

Growth in demand for their products forced them to move to Warwick two years later. The cheese-making operation requires 100 million liters of milk a year.

Saputo spokesman Claude Pinard said the big multinational food producer will keep the acquired brand names. He said it is too soon to know whether the operations will be reorganized.