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    Nestle Acquires Chef America

    Acquisition of Hot Pockets maker expected to spur growth.

    DENVER -- Nestle, the world's number one consumer food company, reached a $2.6 billion deal to acquire Denver-based Chef America, which dominates the frozen hand-held food market in the U.S. with a 50-percent share.

    Chef America's sales, led by its Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets frozen sandwich brands, have been growing at 10 percent a year since 1996 and are expected to top $720 million this year.

    Analysts note that the growth in the hand-held frozen market is being driven by the changing eating habits of American consumers, who are placing more emphasis on convenience, "eating on the go," and are eating smaller and more frequent meals.

    Chef America executives said that the sale would position the company for international growth, explaining that lifestyle trends in Europe and Latin America are similar to those in the U.S. ten years ago.

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