Kellogg Company has sold its Keebler cookie business and related products to the company that makes Nutella.   The company announced today (April 1st) that candy maker Ferrero is paying $1.3 billion for the Keebler cookie business, and related fruit and fruit-flavored snacks, pie crusts and ice cream cones.

Steve Cahillane, chairman and chief executive officer at Kellogg's, said the sale is part of the company's efforts to refocus its business. "Divesting these great brands wasn't an easy decision, but we are pleased that they are transitioning to an outstanding company with a portfolio in which they will receive the focus and resources to grow," Cahillane said in the written announcement on the sale.

The companies expect to close the sale in July.

In addition to Keebler, the brands in the transaction include Mother's, Famous Amos, Murray's, and Murray's Sugar Free, as well as cookies manufactured for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., Kellogg said. Last year,  those businesses recorded net sales of nearly $900 million and operating profit of about $75 million.

No Michigan facilities are directly involved in the sale.  Kellogg says they are located in Augusta, Georgia; Florence, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Allyn, Washington; and Chicago, Illinois.

In a release, Kellogg said it will retain the rest of its North America snacking businesses, including its crackers, salty snacks, wholesome snacks and toaster pastries brands. The company also said it expects to use sale proceeds to pay down debt.

"On behalf of our entire Company, I want to thank the many employees who support these businesses and have contributed to the strength of these brands," Cahillane said. "We appreciate their passion, commitment and everything they have done for Kellogg. These talented individuals are going to a first-class organization in Ferrero, where they undoubtedly will thrive."

Kellogg acquired Keebler Foods, which was founded in 1853, in 2001 for $3.86 billion.

Ferrero, an Italian confectionary company best known for its Nutella hazelnut cream, said Monday it will also acquire six U.S. manufacturing plants from Kellogg in the deal.

Kellogg is among many U.S. food companies that have sold off brands in recent years to adapt to a consumer shift toward more fresh, less processed snacks and foods.