Johnson & Johnson agreed to sell its Splenda lineup to Heartland Food Products Group, abandoning a product that has ascended to the top of the low-calorie sweetener market over the past two decades but also brought controversy.
J&J’s McNeil Nutritionals unit will sell the brand to Heartland for an undisclosed amount, according to a statement on Tuesday. Heartland has been working on the deal with Centerbridge Partners LP, an investment firm with $25 billion in assets under management. Centerbridge will become a shareholder in Heartland once the purchase is completed.
Heartland already sells products with sucralose, the ingredient used in Splenda, but the transaction brings a well- known brand name. The two companies have previously sparred in court. McNeil Nutritionals sued Heartland in 2006, claiming its packaging of store-brand sweeteners diluted Splenda’s trademark and misappropriated advertising ideas. The two sides settled in 2009.
Sucralose, approved by U.S. regulators in 1998, has overtaken aspartame in the sweetener market. But the broader industry has suffered a backlash from food activists, who are urging consumers to abandon artificial ingredients. The Center for Science in the Public Interest changed its rating of sucralose from “safe” to “caution” in recent years. J&J has pointed to 20 years of research and more than 110 scientific studies to demonstrate that the ingredient is safe.
Heartland said on Tuesday that Splenda will bring 100 new jobs to its Indianapolis manufacturing plant, distribution center, and corporate office in Carmel, Indiana. The transaction is slated to close by the end of the year.