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Reckitt Benckiser review could put French’s Mustard up for sale

Roberto Machado Noa | LightRocket | Getty Images

French's mustard and Frank's Red Hot sauce may become the latest mainstays of American kitchens to go up for sale.

Reckitt Benckiser, the British consumer goods company, said on Monday that it would conduct a strategic review of its food business, which includes those products as well as ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments and flavorings.

The review, which could result in the sale of French's Food Company, follows several years in which Reckitt Benckiser has increasingly focused on consumer health products.

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Other major food brands have become takeover targets in recent years as their parent companies look for ways to breathe new life into mature labels. Consumers are increasingly looking for higher-value or more exotic alternatives to the jars and bottles that have long filled kitchen cabinets. In February, Kraft Heinz offered to buy Unilever for $143 billion, then rethought the deal and withdrew.

Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Durex condoms, Nurofen pain relievers and Scholl foot care products, agreed in February to buy Mead Johnson Nutrition, the maker of Enfamil baby formula, for $16.6 billion. That deal would significantly expand its sales in developing countries.

Reckitt Benckiser's food business generated only about $515 million in sales last year and belongs to a part of the company that has posted slower sales growth than its health and hygiene businesses. The company over all reported revenue of 9.9 billion pounds, or about $12.4 billion, in 2016.

"French's Food is a truly fantastic business with great brands, people and a history of outperformance," Reckitt Benckiser said in a news release. "It is nevertheless noncore to R.B. We have therefore decided to initiate a strategic review of food where we will explore all options for this great business."

Reckitt Benckiser said on Monday that it would update financial markets on its plans for the food business when appropriate.