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Typhoo Tea sale could put £100m into Premier Food's pot

LONDON - Premier Foods has put the 98-year-old Typhoo tea brand up for sale in a move that could net the company £100m, as the owner looks to add to focus on the leading brands in its portfolio.

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The company, which owns brands such as Branston Pickle, Ambrosia Creamed Rice and Bird's Custard, has appointed Icelandic investment bank Islandsbanki to handle the process following interest from several companies.

Typhoo Tea is one of the UK's most popular teas and was launched in 1903 with the strapline "Typhoo, the tea the doctors recommend".

It then went on to feature in a popular advertising campaign with the slogan, "Typhoo puts the T in Britain".

Typhoo, based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, is the third-largest player in the tea market, which is led by Unilever's market leader PG Tips and includes competitors such as Tetley, Bestfoods, Associated British Foods and Bettys & Taylors.

The sell-off by Premier, which was recently at the centre of the UK's largest food recall following the discovery of the illegal Sudan 1 dye in its Cross & Blackwell Worcester Sauce, follows the acquisition earlier this month of vegetarian meat alternative Quorn for £172m.

The company is also believed to be interested in buying Marmite from Unilever, though the brand is not officially for sale.

Premier Foods was also one of several groups interested in the acquisition of HP, Lea & Perrins and Amoy sauces, which were bought by Heinz last week for £470m.

In 2002, the tea market was worth £655m, but sales declined to £623m in 2004.

Tea companies are finding increasing success with herbal and fruit teas, which are seen as a healthier alternative and are becoming the more fashionable drink for consumers.

Premier Foods floated on the stock market last July with a value of £527m.

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