Lion Capital, which acquired Foodvest, the owner of Young’s Seafood and Findus, for £1.1bn on Tuesday, would use the new scale to grow the business and the frozen category, he said. “Lyndon Lea (Lion’s co-founder) is looking to buy any top-class food business in Europe and he has a very clear strategy,” said Cane. “He likes branded businesses.”
Lion was interested in frozen food, added Lea, because it was a “low price-point category” that would continue to grow despite the credit crunch.
Cane said the deal would accelerate Young’s growth plans. “We will have very powerful backers,” he said. “These guys have got the firepower. They’re at the top of the tree. That’s got to help us deliver the plans.”
Frozen seafood sales experienced 7% volume growth and 5% value growth in the last 12 weeks, Cane said. “But the total frozen market is showing significant food growth.”
It is the third time Young’s has had private equity owners since 1999, when it was operated by Legal & General.
The Foodvest Group only came into operation in February, when owner CapVest put together the structure and united Young’s with Findus.
Foodvest runs operations in the UK, Scandinavia and France, and has a growing presence in central and eastern Europe. The company is seen as an ideal acquisition for Lyndon Lea, the Lion Capital co-founder, who recently topped The Grocer’s list of industry money men.
Foodvest’s brand portfolio includes leading fish products such as Young’s Chip Shop range, Findus Crispy Pancakes, and Britain’s biggest-selling ready meal, Young’s Admiral’s Pie.
CapVest sold Foodvest to refocus on mid-capital businesses, Cane said.