Confectionery maker and retailer Montezuma’s Chocolate has been rescued by Paramount Retail Group in a deal that sees the chocolatier’s founders return to the business.

The brand, previously owned by private equity player Inverleith, is understood to have been brought from administration in a pre-pack deal.

Following the acquisition, the founders of Montezuma’s, Helen and Simon Pattinson, will rejoin the business as joint MDs.

A company statement said the pair will ”focus on getting the business back to profitability and ensuring that the values are at the forefront of everything the business does.”

The Grocer revealed last week that Inverleith had tasked professional services firm Grant Thornton with securing new investment for the lossmaking brand.

It is understood the deal will see the brand continue to trade through its retail outlets, as well as its grocery manufacturing business.

Its Chichester factory and head office, where approximately 100 staff are based, would also “very much continue as the heart of the business”, the group said.

“The purchase of Montezuma’s will strengthen our confectionery division, offering instant synergies with our existing brands and manufacturing facilities Bristows of Devon, giving a strong presence in hard boiled, fudge, toffee, and now premier chocolate,” said Ravi Sharma, executive director at Paramount. 

Helen Pattinson added: “We’re delighted to be part of the Paramount family and feel that this is such an exciting time for the business. We can’t wait to see what the future holds and are looking forward to sharing more delicious chocolate with you very soon.”

Paramount said synergies across its confectionery division would “disproportionately accelerate the growth” of Bristows and Montezuma’s, with extended ranges and customer penetration opening up retail opportunities that were previously unavailable.

Paramount Retail Group, which owns a number of pet businesses as well as owning majority stakes in lifestyle company Dibor and confectionery businesses Bristows of Devon and Crawford & Tilley, has targeted growing group revenues to £200m within the next 12-18 months, and mooted a possible IPO.

The group acquired four online pet retail brands – Fetch, Medic Animal, Pet Supermarket and Pet Meds – from Paws Holdings in a pre-pack administration deal earlier this year to bring annual revenues up to over £100m.

Inverleith, which has overseen the administration of Farmison and Planet Organic in recent weeks, bought a majority stake in Montezuma’s in 2018 from its founders.

Montezuma’s has made significant distribution gains in supermarkets, with listings won with Waitrose, Asda, Co-op and others in recent months to add to its presence in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Booths, John Lewis, Selfridges and with Ocado and Amazon, as well as its mini bars in Costa.

According to the most recently filed Companies House accounts, for year ended 31 May 2021, the group made a pre-tax loss of £1.1m despite a 19% jump in revenues to £8.1m as a result of the high-cost burden and a lower margin on rising online sales as shops remained closed during Covid.