According to the Chinese New Year, 2012 is the year of the dragon, but for many in the refrigerated and frozen foods industry, it was more like the year of mergers, acquisitions, buyouts, sellouts, resignations and new retail product launches. As outlined in our feature story, Top 150 Food Processors (page 27), several refrigerated and frozen foods processors experienced a great deal of change.

ARYZTA, LLC gobbled up La Brea Bakery, Fresh Start Bakeries, Otis Spunkmeyer and Great Kitchens.

Sara Lee sold off its North American refrigerated dough business to Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products, and later re-named its North American business to Hillshire Brands Co.

Reser’s Fine Foods purchased one of its top competitors, Orval Kent Foods Co., while Golden County Foods sold its Chicago-based subsidiary, Appetizers And Inc., to Progressive Gourmet.

Blount Fine Foods, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2011 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year, spent the last few years snatching up its fair share of competitors, including Neco Foods and Cape Cod Chowder Co.

Land O’Lakes scooped up Kozy Shack Enterprises, and Bob Evans Farms acquired the Kettle Creations brand and its 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Lima, Ohio, manufacturing facility.

Other noteworthy transactions entailed Unilever parting ways with its Bertolli and P.F. Chang’s frozen meals brands by selling to ConAgra Foods, who also purchased the Marie Callender’s trademark from Marie Callender Pie Shops.

Canada-based High Liner Foods acquired Icelandic Seafood USA and its related Asian procurement operations, including a Newport News, Va., processing plant from the Icelandic Group of Iceland.

Meanwhile, Bonduelle North America took over Allens Inc., a Siloam Springs, Ark.-based frozen vegetable supplier. The change of hands included four of Allens’ processing sites, as well as the Chill Ripe and Garden Classic brands.

J. R. Simplot Co. flexed its spending dollars by acquiring Dorman Brothers, LLC, an agricultural supply company, while SunOpta Food Solutions acquired Lorton’s Fresh Squeezed Juices.

Kraft Foods separated into two companies—Mondeléz International Inc. and Kraft Foods Group.

Dairy Farmers of America acquired Kemps LLC from HP Hood, and as of press time, rumors are swirling that Dean Foods is exploring the sale of its Morningstar unit.

Chinese astrology does say that the year of the dragon brings promise of change. Looks like the stars are in line for processors to continue transforming, evolving and growing the refrigerated and frozen foods industry.