Prepared Foods of March 28, 2005 enewsletter

Pittsburgh ketchup maker The H.J. Heinz Co. moved to bulk up its growing U.S. foodservice operations by swallowing Appetizers And Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Chicago company founded in 1967 has grown to employ 550 full-time and another 60 part-time employees on the strength of its upscale frozen hors d'oeuvres, including tiny quiches, brochettes, puffs, quesadillas and other small foods served by hotels and caterers.

Heinz has seen the U.S. foodservice market as one where it can grow sales at above-average rates. In the most recent quarter, the company reported sales in the division grew almost 6%.

In 2003, Heinz purchased a maker of premium frozen bagged soups, Seattle Truesoups. Its portfolio also includes another frozen soup line, Chef Francisco; Delimex of San Diego, Calif., a maker of Hispanic appetizers; and two premium frozen dessert businesses, Alden Merrell of Newburyport, Mass., and Dianne's Gourmet Desserts of Le Center, Minn.

The acquisition should allow Heinz to enlarge its distribution network as well as expand its buying and logistics capabilities, said Jeffrey Berger, president of the Heinz Foodservice business.