Local Slim Jim maker to be ‘snapped’ in half

ConAgra is spinning off its frozen potatoes business and unloading a second major division as it works to intensify its focus on key name brand foods.

The company said Wednesday that it will split off leading brands such as Chef Boyardee and Healthy Choice into Conagra Brands Inc. It will spin off its frozen potato business under the Lamb Weston name.

The split is expected to be complete by fall of 2016.

Its shares jumped 4 percent in afternoon trading.

“The decision to separate into two pure-play companies reflects our ongoing commitment to implementing bold changes in order to deliver sustainable growth and enhanced shareholder value,” said CEO Sean Connolly, in a printed statement.

ConAgra Foods began construction in October on a $13 million addition project to its smokehouse at its Troy facility off Dye Mill Road.

The project calls for a building of around 10,000 square feet to make its Slim Jim snack food product. The company listed more than 700 employees in reports filed with the city at the end of 2014.

There have been some big changes at ConAgra this year since Connolly became CEO in the spring. The company announced the sale of most of its private-label operations to TreeHouse Foods Inc. for about $2.7 billion. It also plans to cut 1,500 jobs, about 30 percent of its office-based workforce, as it moves its headquarters from Omaha, Nebraska, to Chicago by next summer.

ConAgra has also felt pressure to make changes from activist investor Jana Partners, which disclosed a 7.2 percent stake in the food company in June and gained two seats on ConAgra’s board in June.

Citi analyst David Driscoll questioned how much will be gained by separating Lamb Weston from ConAgra’s branded foods because the Lamb Weston unit has long operated independently within the company.

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