Italian dairy and agri-food co-op Granarolo is gearing up for a major tilt at the UK fresh sector after acquiring UK chilled distributor Midland Food Group.

Bologna-based Granarolo currently supplies some own-label Italian produce to Sainsbury’s, but hoped to increase its exposure to the UK retail and foodservice sector following the deal, said general manager Filippo Marchi.

The deal put Granarolo’s existing UK division behind only Italy and France in terms of turnover, and was a “first step in establishing a Granarolo brand in the UK”, Marchi added. The supplier would initially concentrate on further expanding its own label business.

Midland posted sales in excess of £60m during its most recent financial year. Dairy represented some 30% of its sales. The company also distributes hams and other cooked meat products, and a full range of ambient products for foodservice.

Granarolo planned to build on Midland’s experience and increasing presence in retail to “make an even bigger splash in the British chilled food market”, added chairman Gianpiero Calzolari.