PEMBROKE: Blowing bubbles along the M40

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The food business can be a confusing place. Only days before Christmas GrandMet sold its American dog food subsidiary, Alpo, to Nestle for $510m. How strange, then, that its executives returned hot-foot from the US on Sunday night bubbling over w ith thenews of a £1.2bn purchase of an American company called Pets. Were they plunging into cat food this time? Or dog biscuits? Or budgy feed? No. Pets makes Mexican sauce and Italian soups. For humans.

So why the name Pet? The company was founded in St Louis in 1884, saddled with the name Halvatia Milk Condensing Company - an indigestible mouthful at the best of times. Its staple brand was its condensed milk. In the 1920s a woman walked into a store and asked for her favourite condensed milk - her "pet" brand. When this was reported to head office the Halvatia Milk Condencing Company sighed with relief. The company changed its name to Pet and lived happily ever after. And not a lot of people in this country - including GrandMet, by the way - know that.