Food and beverage sector mergers and acquisitions comment – September 2008

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Who will come out on top as consumers feel the pinch – private label or branded products? Several of the major food retailers have been promoting their own brands to show customers how much they can save compared to proprietary brands.

And it seems as though we are all taking notice – Sainsbury’s has reported that sales of its 15,000 own-brand products were growing on average 6%, while sales of branded goods were up 3%.

But the manufacturers of branded products are not taking this lying down. Northern Foods has decided to relaunch Goodfella’s pizza, one of the company’s flagship brands. The overhaul includes new products, revamped packaging and around £2.5m of marketing support. Premier Foods has relaunched its heritage brand Hovis, with a much-vaunted 2 minute-long TV ad which formed part of the first phase of a £30m campaign.

It will be interesting to see if this investment pays off for the brand owners in the current economic climate…

Deals completed in the UK

Associated British Foods has had its £62m acquisition of the yeast operations of GBI cleared by the European Commission. GBI produces dry, compressed and liquid baker’s yeast.

Stonegate, the UK egg producer, has been sold in a management buyout for an estimated £40m. The buyout team, which was led by Pam and Richard Corbett, was backed by Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance.

AG Barr, the listed UK based soft drink manufacturer, has acquired Rubicon Group Limited, the UK based manufacturer and distributor of branded exotic fruit juice drinks, for £60m. The acquisition is in line with Barr’s strategy to expand its juice drinks business, broaden its customer base and provide better services.

Milk Link, the dairy group, has completed the sale of its Staplemead Creamery to French food and dairy specialist Andros. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The disposal marks Milk Link’s exit from fresh dairy ingredients.

NBTY Inc., a global manufacturer and marketer of nutritional supplements, has acquired Julian Graves for £15m. Julian Graves is one of the UK’s largest independent specialty natural food and ingredients retailers. The acquisition will expand NBTY’s European Retail division from 638 stores to 983 stores.

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