February 21, 2017 / 9:38 PM / 3 years ago

Canadian meat processor Maple Leaf to buy U.S.-based Lightlife Foods

FILE PHOTO - A sign for the Maple Leaf food processing plant is seen in Toronto August 21, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA)

(Reuters) - Canadian meat packaging goods company Maple Leaf Foods Inc (MFI.TO) said on Tuesday it would buy U.S.-based Lightlife Foods Inc, a manufacturer of plant-based protein foods, for $140 million and related costs.

Lightlife Foods reported 2016 sales of about $40 million and has a 38 percent market share in the U.S. refrigerated plant proteins market, Maple Leaf said in a statement.

Based on current operating results, the acquisition is expected to add to Maple Leaf’s earnings in 2017, the company said.

Some major North American meat producers have been shifting to plant-based substitutes to create meat alternatives that taste like the real thing. (reut.rs/2lDWgqh)

Maple Leaf, which raises and processes pigs as its main business, said last October it dedicated several staff members to work on innovating plant-based protein products in its kitchens, focusing on improving taste.

In Europe, sausage-maker Rügenwalder Mühle added meat-substitute dishes in 2014 as German meat sales declined.

Meat substitutes are not a risk-free investment as consumer tastes could eventually turn against them. Some meat alternatives are made from genetically modified crops opposed by some environmentalists.

Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri and Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Peter Cooney

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