After failing to land a number of key acquisition targets in recent years, Burton’s Biscuit Co has snapped up premium biscuit manufacturer Thomas Fudge’s from private equity owner Livingbridge.

It’s Burton’s first major move in M&A since its buyout by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in 2013 and marks an “important milestone” said CEO Nick Field.

Ontario vowed to grow Burton’s via acquisitive growth, but missed out in the auction for United Biscuits in 2014, while a widely mooted merger deal with 2 Sisters-owned Fox’s Biscuits never came to fruition.

Field said the acquisition of the Dorset-based supplier would provide a “hugely complementary production capability to Burton’s own bakeries, extending into the more premium and artisanal end of the category” through branded, own-label and licensed products.

Founded in 1916, Thomas Fudge’s was sold to Livingbridge in April 2016 and has undergone a management shake-up, while a rebrand has included extending it into new categories, such as flatbreads.

However, it slipped to a £1.5m pre-tax loss in its first 15-month trading period under private equity ownership, while pre-tax losses stood at £918k in its most recently filed financial year to 31 March 2018.

Annual sales of £10.7m remain below the £11m achieved in the year before its sale to Livingbridge.

“It was not the best investment by Livingbridge,” said one dealmarker. “The value is really in what Burtons can do with the brand.”

In recent years Burton’s has focussed on building its private label business, but the November 2016 loss of its much-prized Cadbury biscuit licence back to Mondelez hit profits and sales.

In its most recently filed set of accounts for the year to 30 December 2017 Burton’s recorded a £15m loss before tax and a 6.1% fall in revenues to £232.8m.