Newly created Asian foods group Vibrant Foods has made its first acquisition, with a deal to buy £75m Indian and healthy snacks specialist Cofresh Snack Foods.
Exponent-backed Vibrant, which houses wholesalers East End Foods and TRS Foods, closed the deal for the Leicester-based bagged snacks group this week, for an undisclosed sum.
Family owned Cofresh, founded in 1974 to supply snacks to the Indian community in the Midlands and southern England, now boasts annual retail sales of £75m, with listings across all the major supermarkets.
The Cofresh brand is the UK’s number one Indian snack player, producing Bombay Mix and bagged nuts. It also produces the the branded Eat Real free-from snacking range, including Hummus, Lentil and Quinoa Chips, Quinoa Puffs and Veggie Straws.
The deal sees Vibrant Foods buy the entire shareholding of Cofresh, with the founding Patel family reinvesting into a minority equity stake in Vibrant. Cofresh MD Priyesh Patel and the existing management team will remain at the helm of the business.
Patel said: “I’ve always had the vision of becoming the Tilda or Patak’s of snacking – ethnic, legacy family businesses that have grown to become mainstream brands and have partnered up for the second part of their journey.”
“I have known [Vibrant Foods chairman] Rohit [Samani] for many years and the whole concept of the platform he and Exponent are trying to create is hugely exciting.”
The deal will widen the Cofresh brand’s distribution in the independent trade and world foods aisles in the supermarkets, but Vibrant is also keen to start targeting mainstream consumers looking for plant-based healthy products.
In particular, Samani said Eat Real was “at the sharp end of the healthier snacking market” and under the Vibrant Foods umbrella it had the opportunity to “expand the distribution considerably and bring in a much broader consumer base both in the UK, Continental Europe, the US and Canada”.
Last year, Cofresh bought a 180,000 sq ft facility in Nuneaton to focus on its production of free-from snacks under the Eat Real brand. It is set to become operational by September.
Samani said the Eat Real brand gave Vibrant a “bridgehead” into health-conscious mainstream consumers, which it intends to build on through organic growth of its four brands and further acquisitions.
He commented: “I believe we have got the opportunity and the resource to drive both organic and acquisitive growth. The whole ambition behind creating Vibrant Foods is that we want to encourage other branded businesses who want to be part of this platform to join us and offer them considerable growth opportunities.”
In 2019, Cofresh, trading as Lakshmi & Sons, delivered 28.8% turnover growth to £44.4m and an operating profit of £5.7m, up from £3.2m in the previous year.
Patel said the company had continued to trade strongly through the coronavirus lockdown period, with a surge in-home consumption, particularly in CTNs and independents, more than compensating for the loss of sales in foodservice.