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Oct 19 (Reuters) - Stremicks Heritage Foods LLC, a U.S. maker and distributor of dairy products, is exploring a sale that it hopes could value it at more than $1 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
Family-owned Stremicks has hired investment bank Houlihan Lokey Inc to run an auction for the company, the people said this week, asking not to be named because the matter is confidential.
Stremicks has annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of around $120 million, according to the sources.
Stremicks did not respond to a request for comment. Houlihan Lokey declined comment.
Based in Santa Ana, California, Stremicks sells milk under the Stremicks Heritage Foods and 8th Continent brands, as well as various private labels. It also licenses brands that include Kern's Nectar fruit drink and Hain Celestial Group Inc -owned Rice Dream rice milks.
The dairy product industry has benefited from increased consumer preference for yogurt and cheese products in recent years. Non-dairy companies such as Coca-Cola Co have sought to take advantage of these trends, venturing into dairy with products such as FairLife milk.
Some of the larger U.S based dairy companies include El Paso, Texas-based Dean Foods Co and Denver, Colorado-based WhiteWave Foods Co. (Reporting by Lauren Hirsch in New York; Editing by Christian Plumb)