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Rich Products buys firm in Seattle

Rich Products said Monday it has responded to consumer demand for "natural" food by buying a small Seattle company with a focus on real ingredients, such as shrimp scampi with butter, wine and garlic.

"Consumers more and more are looking for less artificial and more natural ingredients," said Jack Kilgore, president of Rich SeaPak, the "protein" division of Rich, which is based in St. Simons Island, Ga. SeaPak has 1,000 employees and six plants from Georgia to New Jersey to Tennessee to Buffalo. Prepared food made and sold nationwide include barbecue, Italian meats, and breaded shrimp.

While the privately-held Rich Products, headquartered in Buffalo, declined to reveal the price of the deal that closed last week, it did say that Seattle's WorldCatch has fewer than a dozen staffers overseeing its frozen food manufacturing elsewhere, such as Thailand. Its products have a more limited distribution, but can be found at some Wal-Marts and Costcos.

"They have established a premium position," said Kilgore. As Rich's wanted to develop a product that featured natural ingredients, it made more sense to buy a company with recipes and know-how, rather than develop it more slowly from within, said Kilgore.

"We really needed the brand along with their expertise and their intellectual property," he said. The two former WorldCatch owners and the management team will stay on now that their company has been sold. "We're not buying them with the idea to chop people out," Kilgore said.

Rich's latest acquisition of a natural food specialist makes sense, according to a frozen food association.

"They're very sharp," said Nevin Montgomery, president of the Pennsylvania-based National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association, of which Rich's is a member. "It exactly ties into their game plan of quality products."

e-mail: mkearns@buffnews.com

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