German food group Zertus has acquired The Sun Valley Nut Company as part of its push into healthier snacking in the UK. 

The deal sees ownership of the nut-based snacking brand move from the Hacking family, who founded the business in 1949. 

The addition of Sun Valley adds to Zertus’ existing UK market presence, which includes free-from chocolate brand Nomo, kids snacking brands The Fruit Factory and Forest of Hope and a partnership with Diageo to produce Baileys Chocolates. 

The acquisition has been led by Paul Tripp, CEO Zertus UK & Ireland, who has recently also joined the international Zertus management board as MD.  

“This is a strong acquisition for Zertus in the UK and one that complements our existing businesses in the healthier snacking sector,” he commented.

“It will allow us to leverage our combined innovation and operational competencies to drive growth through exciting new products while enabling us to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Sun Valley supplies peanut and nut-based snacking products across the private label, foodservice and food ingredients channels as well as nuts, peanut butters and crisps under its own The Sun Valley Nut Co and Nuts For brands. 

Its most recently filed accounts showed sales booming during the Covid period, with turnover in 2020 up by 13.9% to £45.5m, as a substantial increase in own label and retail sales mitigated the “almost total” loss of pub and bar sales. 

However, gross margins declined to 19.5% from 21.4% amid a “very competitive snacks and nut market”, meaning operating profits fell to £110k from £190k, and pre-tax profits of just £7k compared to £85k in the previous year. 

Zertus said the deal puts it “at the forefront of the snacking and confectionery industry” by building on its portfolio of customer branded ranges for the UK’s leading retailers.   

Jim Hacking, chairman of Sun Valley Nut Company, added: “We believe that in Zertus we have found the right long-term owner for the business. We’re confident Zertus can make the necessary investments needed to take the business to the next level whilst preserving the heritage of the Sun Valley business we have lovingly built over the last 72 years.

“Sun Valley has three well invested operational facilities spread across two sites based in Bromborough, Wirral, which Zertus will take over operations for, with production of Sun Valley to continue on-site.”

Zertus was advised by MDBAS for corporate finance and PWC for financial due diligence, while Sun Valley was advised by Hurst Corporate Finance.