Chaucer is the latest UK-headquartered food group to be snapped up by a foreign buyer in a deal worth more than $120m (£95.4m), The Grocer can reveal.
The ingredients supplier has been acquired by Japanese freeze-dried food manufacturer Nagatanien after a seven-month long search for expansion capital.
The deal will see Chaucer, which produces freeze-dried fruit & veg for global blue-chip clients such as Kellogg’s, Unilever, Nestlé and Starbucks, continue its push into the US, as well as opening up the Japanese market.
Chaucer hired investment firm Piper Jaffray in April to find a new US investor to take over the 60% stake currently held by private equity houses Caird Capital and Endless, and HSBC bank, to help the business to continue its rapid growth in North America.
However, Nagatanien swooped to take full control of the group, including the 40% owned by the management team lead by CEO Andy Ducker, who will continue to run the business following the deal.
Chaucer originally hoped to raise about $70m of expansion capital for a 60% shareholding, valuing the overall business at around $120m (£82m at April’s exchange rates).
Although, the deal price is undisclosed, Nagatanien is understood to have exceeded management expectations with its offer.
Ducker, who has overseen a 60% surge in revenues to $139.3m (£114.3m) since taking charge in 2011, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Nagatanien. They are a longstanding business and the leading brand in the Japanese market for premixed, instant and freeze-dried food.
“From inception, Nagatanien’s corporate philosophy has been ‘Aji-Hitosuji’ translating to ‘naturally excellent taste’, and this is perfectly aligned with our own attitude of producing healthy ingredients to meet the growing trend towards healthy eating and nutrition.
“The group is excited by the cross-selling and growth opportunities that this partnership opens up to both parties and I look forward to working with the Nagatanien team.”
Nagatanien, established in 1953, sells rice and rice seasoning products, miso soup, flavourings and noodles, at its two factories, employing close to 2,000 staff and generating annual revenues of 78.4bn yen (£541m).
The Tokyo business is the market leader in instant and freeze-dried Japanese food and plans to use the partnership with Chaucer to enter new markets and provide it with access to clean label products.
Chaucer, which also has a factory at its Hull headquarters producing bread croutons for food manufacturers, as well as sites in France and China, recently committed to doubling capacity at its US facility by 2017 to keep up with booming demand.
The US currently makes up 10% of group sales, and is expected to grow to 30% in the next two years. There are also plans to bring its US Crunchies freeze-dried brand to Europe – and potentially Japan following the deal.
Ducker and chairman David Manning joined the struggling business in 2011 in a bid to turn around its fortunes. An over-reliance on Kellogg’s as its main customer had left it exposed and the business, formed in the 1980s, was also burdened with $40m of debt from an MBO in 2005.