chaucer group

UK-based food group Chaucer has secured the backing of private equity house Caird Capital to invest further in the US.

Caird acquired a 30% stake owned by RBS for an undisclosed sum and will, along with fellow institutional investors HSBC (15%) and private equity firm Endless (15%), support Chaucer’s growth plans.

Led by CEO Andy Ducker the management, who own the remaining 40% of the business, will remain in place.

“The new facility we opened earlier this year in the US has already reached capacity,” Ducker said.

“We now have a committed and enthusiastic bunch of stakeholders who are keen and able to support further opportunities needed for growth.”

Chaucer supplies freeze-dried fruits and vegetables and bread crouton products to the likes of Kellogg’s, Unilever, Nestlé and Starbucks.

Ducker is reviewing whether it should acquire further US capacity from other businesses or put more plant in the existing site in Portland to meet growing demand.

Sales at Chaucer grew 3% in 2014 to $119m (£78.5m) but heavy investment in opening the US factory and the acquisition of US brand Crunchies, which gave the group access to Walmart and Costco, dented profitability.

Newly published accounts show operating profits slipped from $5.9m in 2013 to $4.5m, with EBITDA down from $8.6m to $7.5m.

Ducker said trading so far in 2015 had been strong, with revenues and profits expected to rise by about 10% as growth in the US filtered through, along with increased volumes from major accounts such as Kellogg’s and Starbucks, and new contract wins for the bread division, based at the Hull HQ.

Ducker and chairman David Manning joined Chaucer in 2011 to turn round its fortunes after RBS and HSBC took control of the business in 2008. An over-reliance on Kellogg’s had left Chaucer exposed and the business was also burdened with $40m of debt from an MBO in 2005.

The group Chaucer has grown turnover 25% since 2011 and now sells products in more than 30 countries. As well as its UK and US operations, it also has sites in France, China and Chile and employs 450 staff.

It also owns consumer business Premium Snack Company, which is behind the Nothing But, Pane Italia, Hoots and Fru Snax brands