April 3, 2007/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH -- One of the oldest brands on grocery shelves, Eagle Brand condensed milk, has been purchased by the J.M. Smucker Co. of Orrville.

Smucker will pay $248 million to acquire Eagle Family Foods Holdings Inc., which bought the Eagle brand and others from Borden Inc. in 1998.

The move will force the closing of Eagle Family's Gahanna headquarters, where 45 people work. Smucker said some workers will have the chance to transfer to Orrville.

Smucker also is acquiring Eagle Family's Magnolia sweetened condensed milk brand, None Such mincemeat, Borden Eggnog and Kava acid-neutralized coffee.

"There's a bittersweetness to this," said Craig Steinke, Eagle Family's president and chief executive. "There's an extraordinary amount of pride from the associates that we got the company to this point, but sad news that the culture and the team are going to come to an end."

Smucker plans to continue operations at Eagle Family's manufacturing plants in Seneca, Mo., and El Paso, Texas, where 155 work. The deal is expected to be final May 1.

Eagle "is definitely another icon brand and we're very pleased to add that to the Smucker family of brands," spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher said. "It is actually older than the Smucker brand."

Condensed milk was the genesis of the Borden empire.

In 1857, Gail Borden Jr. opened the New York Condensed Milk Co. a year after patenting a process that allowed milk to be stored without refrigeration. By the 1930s, Elsie the Cow was the well-known mascot for the brand.

Borden expanded over the years into a variety of food products, glue and chemicals, among other things. In the early 1970s, Borden moved its administrative headquarters and management of the Eagle Brand to Columbus, although executive offices remained in New York.

By 1989, the company had $7.65 billion in sales and 2,000 employees in Columbus. But the economic downturn in the early 1990s hit Borden hard, debt rose and competition increased.

In 1994, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. bought Borden and started selling off pieces of the company.

Eagle Family, which is privately held, was formed by GE Investment Private Placement Partners II and Warburg Pincus Ventures. Today, Dairy Farmers of America is also a co-owner of Eagle Family.

Smucker's size provides bargaining power with food retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kroger, who have grown in recent years, Steinke said.

From the April 9, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash