Hiestand said that its German subsidiary took over the business of the Mönchengladbach-based company on 1 February, paying €116 million to acquire the business.
Back & Friends, which has 30 employees, is one of the leading distributors of deep frozen bakery goods in Germany, with greatest coverage in the Ruhr area and in the north east of the country.
The company supplies mainly service stations and major bakery chains, and owns the well-known Golden Door and Polarfrost which are particularly prominent in butchers' shops, takeaways and in the convenience food sector.
Hiestand said it would now have nationwide distribution coverage for its deep frozen bakery products such as croissants, loaves, pretzels and sweet and savoury snacks. It said it expected to see significant synergies in terms of distribution, marketing, production and purchasing.
Hiestand Germany currently supplies more than 10,000 customers in the foodservice, food manufacture and retail sectors, and last year posted sales of €78 million. In comparison, Back & Friends' sales were around €20 million in 2003.
Hiestand, which sold a 22 per cent stake to IAWS in 2003, performed well during the last 12 months, with sales growth of 9.8 per cent to SF331.3 million. Like many Swiss companies, the continued strength of the franc against other currencies made life difficult for Hiestand, but the company said that the development of new products and improved relationships with its customer base had helped to offset these concerns.
The greatest sales growth came in the group's core markets Germany and Switzerland. In the home market, Hiestand increased sales by SF22.7 million to SF161.5 million in 2003 (16 per cent), helped by a good performance from the convenience sector, the addition of new clients and solid performances from other key accounts.
In Germany, the baked goods market as a whole declined in 2003, but Hiestand bucked the trend with a 9.8 per cent increase in sales to SF119.6 million, helped by the opening up of new distribution channels and a new service programme.
Sales in Austria increased 29.5 per cent over the previous year to SF6.8 million, with the frozen bakery business showing a 51.5 per cent improvement. The fresh bakery division was closed at the end of 2002.
In Poland, sales in the B2B (business-to-business) sector increased by 6 per cent, but this was offset by a decline in the retail sector as a result of the ongoing recession and the decision to close 10 shops. As a result of this - and of currency devaluations - total sales were down 13.3 per cent to SF15 million.
In Japan, growth in local currency was nearly 5 per cent, a reassuring return to growth after several difficult years there, but overall sales were down 2.4 per cent to SF16.6 million after currency translation. Elsewhere in Asia - specifically Malaysia and Singapore - growth in local currencies was just under 10 per cent, despite the impact of SARS. Again, though, currency devaluations meant that total sales were 3.2 per cent lower in Swiss francs at SF6.9 million.
In the UK, where the business has been run by IAWS since 1 December 2003, group sales were SF4.9 million in 2003, a reduction of 27.3 per cent in Swiss franc terms. The hope is that the new agreement in the UK market will also help the group to recover from a steady decline in local currency sales over the last few years (around 20 per cent per annum since 2002).