January 15/Toronto/The Canadian Press -- Canada Bread Co. Ltd. is bulking up in the prepared-sandwich business with a deal to buy Quebec sandwich and sweet-goods maker Aliments Martel Inc.

The price is $42 million -- plus as much as $23 million based on Martel's performance over the next three years, Canada Bread majority owner Maple Leaf said yesterday.

Privately owned Aliments Martel, with 2007 sales of $54 million, has 425 employees in Gatineau, St. Romuald and Lachine, serving grocery and convenience stores in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.

The acquisition, subject to competition approval, is Canada Bread's second in the sandwich market, following its 2006 takeover of Toronto-based Royal Touch Foods.

The Martel purchase "reinforces our strategy of accelerating top-line growth through diversification into other high-growth, valued-added categories," said Richard Lan, CEO of Canada Bread, which is 88% owned by Maple Leaf Foods Inc. Martel brings "expertise in this growth segment of the market."

From the January 21, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash