|Product type||Frozen food|
Nomad Foods (Nordic countries, France, Spain and Belgium)|
Lion Capital LLP (United Kingdom)
The Swiss food company Nestlé owned the Findus brand from 1962 to 2000; it sold the rights to the brand in most of Europe in 2000 whilst retaining ownership in Switzerland. Through a number of acquisitions, the brand in Scandinavia, France, Spain and the United Kingdom came to be owned by the Findus Group, owned by Lion Capital LLP, Highbridge Capital Management and JPMorgan Chase. In Italy, it was owned by Iglo Group, which marketed a similar range under the Iglo and Birds Eye brand.
In June 2015, Iglo Group was purchased by Nomad Foods. Nomad followed this in November 2015 with the purchase of Findus' European business, with the exception of Findus UK and Young's, which remain under the ownership of Lion Capital and its partners. Young's confirmed in February 2016 that it intended to rebrand Findus in the UK.
The origins of the Findus brand date back to the founding of Skånska Frukt- vin- & Likörfabriken (Fruit, Wine and Liqueur Industries) in Bjuv, Sweden in 1905. In 1941 Skånska Fruktin & Likörfabriken was acquired by the confectionery manufacturer Freja Marabou and was subsequently renamed Findus Canning Factory. In 1945 the first Findus-branded deep frozen food products went on sale in Sweden, produced in a small factory in Skåne. Findus products were exported to an increasing number of European countries in the late 1950s, including the United Kingdom in 1958. In 1962, Findus Co. was acquired by the Swiss food company Nestlé.
In 1963 Nestlé and the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever formed a frozen foods joint venture in Italy, which sold products under the Findus name. Unilever acquired Nestle's stake in the joint venture in 1985, giving it full ownership of the Findus brand in Italy.
In the 1970s, famed film talent Orson Welles provided narration for a series of Findus television commercials that aired in the UK. Outtakes from the recordings sessions (in which Welles complained about the quality of the advertising copy, argued with the director, and ultimately stormed out of the recording booth) have become known colloquially as the "Frozen Peas" recordings.
In 1998, Nestlé announced that they intended to discontinue the Findus brand in the UK in favour of its Crosse & Blackwell name. The plan was dropped when Swedish firm EQT Partners purchased the Findus brand in Scandinavia, France, Spain and the UK from Nestlé in 1999.
Geir Frantzen, a former senior manager at Findus AB, bought out the UK company in April 2005 from EQT. EQT sold the rest of the Findus business (excluding Italy and Switzerland) to CapVest in January 2006, which subsequently created Foodvest as a holding company for Findus and Young's Seafood. In July 2008 Foodvest, including Findus, was purchased by the British private equity firm, Lion Capital LLP. Foodvest was renamed Findus Group in 2009.
On 6 January 2009, a fire broke out at the British Findus factory, devastating much of the building. Newcastle Production, owners of the factory, entered administration with Zolfo Cooper on 12 January, leading to 359 redundancies.
In June 2011 it was announced that Findus Group would take back direct responsibility for sales and marketing of the Findus brand in Spain, which it had previously licensed to Ardo in 2005.
In November 2015, Findus in all markets excluding the UK was sold to Nomad Foods, which had already purchased Iglo Group in June that year. Findus' UK operations remained alongside Young's under the ownership of investors led by Lion Capital.
In February 2016, Young's confirmed it would discontinue use of the Findus brand in the UK, replacing it with "Chef's Classic" and "Original Pancake Co."
The Italian Findus range includes 4 Salti in Padella (literally "four jumps in a pan", Italian for "stir frying"), a microwavable or easy cooking version of classic Italian dishes, such as carbonara, amatriciana and tagliatelle al ragù.
Crispy Pancakes is the name of a brand of frozen savoury pancakes coated with breadcrumbs containing various fillings. Past names of fillings include cheddar cheese, chicken and bacon, chicken and sweetcorn and chicken and mushroom (these were phasing out in November 2001 and finally discontinued in 2002). Crispy pancakes, packaged in Britain, are sold in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Italy. In Italy, they are known as Sofficini ("soft ones, fluffy ones") and are described as tomato and mozzarella, mozzarella and spinach or cheese and ham.
The chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall re-created Findus Crispy Pancakes on his television show River Cottage in November 2009, although the original recipe was developed by Andrew Othen. Fearnley-Whittingstall stated in an article in The Times in 2009 that he loved Findus Crispy Pancakes as a child.
2013 horsemeat scandal
On 7 February 2013, it was revealed that the Findus beef lasagne range in the UK, France and Sweden and the shepherd's pie and moussaka ranges in France contained horse meat without proper declaration. The contamination may have gone on since summer 2012 according to a leaked document. Out of 18 products 11 tested positive for horse meat. It was also revealed that some of the products sold had minced meat declared as beef that actually was 60–100% horsemeat. The source of the horse meat was a third party supplier of Comigel, the producer of the lasagne. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the company had been alerted by a third-party French supplier on 4 February 2013 and tested its beef lasagne products finding over 50% of the tested products contained horsemeat. According to reports, both Findus UK and the French supplier withdrew all products related to the third party supplier. It is thought the reason for the contamination is "highly likely" to have been criminal activity.
On 8 February 2013, Findus UK published a public apology on their website, also announcing that, following DNA testing, 3 of its products were found to contain horse tissue. These are the 320, 350 and 500 gram packages of Findus Beef Lasagne and the company offers a refund for products purchased. In Sweden, Findus Sverige AB also announced a recall of its 375 gram packs of ready made single portion lasagne (code 63957) and published a contact number for customers who had already purchased the products.
The horse meat is thought to have found its way via a Romanian abattoir that delivered the meat to a trader in the Netherlands. That were contracted by a Cyprus trader who sold the frozen meat to Spanghero. The meat was then sent to Comigel who makes the end consumer product. The French authority DGCCRF (Directorate General for Competition, Consumer affairs and Repression of Fraud) inspected Spanghero on Friday 8 February and was able to review the traceability of documents for the concerned batches on the past 4 months, which attests of the conformity of Spanghero's procedures. The French fraud office, the DGCCRF investigation is going on, and inspectors are visiting both the Comigel and Spanghero plants. The investigation's results should be known on 14 February and they will determine the fraud source. Spanghero is working jointly with the authorities on this investigation. Public health scientists suspect the horse meat may contain traces of bute which is harmful to humans in large amounts.
Spanghero had to withdraw 12 tonnes of mince in June 2011, because of suspected contamination by E.coli, which causes potentially fatal food poisoning. This contamination happened to be a false alarm. Spanghero products did not contain E.coli and the French authority DGCCRF cleared Spanghero on 22 June 2011.
In a public letter later that day, 11 firms, including Tesco and Asda, said they shared shoppers' "anger and outrage". Whitbread vowed to remedy the unacceptable situation on 26 February. The FSA's chief executive, Catherine Brown also said "it is unlikely we will ever know" how many unwittingly ate horsemeat.
Ready packed meal firm Findus was not the only victim as Compass Group, the world's biggest catering firm, and Whitbread, Britain's biggest hotel and hospitality group, were both indicted for illegally selling concealed horse meat in food products.
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