Sara Lee Acquires Tea Fort

Trend-setting Tea Forté was acquired this week by Sara Lee Corp.

Beginning in 2003, acclaimed designer Peter Hewitt built the Concord, Massachusetts-based Tea Forté into a global luxury brand sold in 35 countries. His signature pyramid bag with tea leaf tag and “must-have” gift tea sets distinguished the brand and invigorated the contemporary tea experience.

Tea ForteTea Forté offers whole leaf teas and rough-cut herbal blends. It was a first-place winner in the 2011 North American Tea Championships in the Flavored Herbal Blends Category and took a Gold SOFI Award in the NASFT Best Food Gift category in July 2011.

"Acquiring Tea Forté fits perfectly into our strategy to spin off 'CoffeeTeaCo' as a pure-play coffee and tea company poised for strong growth," said Jan Bennink, executive chairman of the board, Sara Lee Corp.

Terms were not disclosed. Tea Forté grossed $12 million in 2011. The acquisition will enhance Chicago-based Sara Lee’s foothold in the fast-growing tea business. Sara Lee owns Pickwick Teas and coffee brands DouweEgberts and Senseo among a portfolio that last year earned $9 billion in net sales.

In January 2011, Sara Lee Corp announced its plans to divide itself into two publicly traded, pure-play entities: one focused on meats in North America and the other focused on the international coffee and tea market. It sold its North American foodservice coffee and tea operations to JM Smucker Co. last year and announced it will discontinue its Senseo equipment sales. The split is on track to occur during the first half of calendar year 2012.

"Tea Forté's expertise in ultra-premium teas complements our existing business with leading brands across Europe and boosts our innovation capabilities in the tea category," added Michiel Herkemij, chief executive officer, Sara Lee International Beverage.

Tea Forté's management team will continue to operate independently as Sara Lee integrates the company into its global coffee and tea business.

Sara Lee employs approximately 20,000 people worldwide.  The company plans to move its headquarters to downtown Chicago from Downers Grove, Ill., in 2013 after it completes its split.