SlimFast Foods Co. and premium ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. agreed separately to buyouts by British-Dutch marketing giant Unilever Plc. - the first for $2.3 billion and the latter for $326 million. SlimFast, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., controls 45 percent of the US market in health snacks and nutritional supplements but records only 6 percent of its sales outside North America; Unilever said it had "identified opportunities" to develop the brand in Europe. The deal for Ben & Jerry's calls for the South Burlington, Vt., company to have its own board to continue guiding its widely publicized social activism. Cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield also said they'd continue to be involved. Unilever is the world's largest ice-cream company, marketing such brands as Breyers, Good Humor, Popsicle, and Klondike.
As part of a trend toward creating business-to-business marketplaces online, 14 of the world's largest energy companies announced they would form an Internet procurement exchange. Currently the companies - among them BP Amoco, Dow Chemical, Mitsubishi, and Phillips Petroleum - spend more than $125 billion on procurement each year.
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