Private equity firm to expand horizons of Snack International

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Private equity group Meal Food Snack food

A private equity group plans to expand the international reach of French salted snack company Snack International following the acquisition of a majority stake in the firm.

IK Investment Partners said it hopes to develop the existing product range of the stapled chips and extruded products manufacturer, as well as launch new lines, in addition to exporting to new markets such as the UK.

Snack International, owned by the Caillavet family, holds over 60 per cent of the salted snack private label market in France, but also operates in the entry price and hard discount sectors.

The private equity group, which claims to have extensive experience in the food processing sector, said this is its tenth outlay in France, but the investors did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.

Financing of the operation, it reported, was underwritten by Le Crédit Lyonnais (LCL) and Céréa Mezzanine.

The investment firm said its current portfolio of food manufacturers includes Poland’s Agros Nova, leading Dutch private label biscuit maker Continental Bakeries, French seafood processor, Labeyrie, along with Belgium fish processor and distributor, Lithells, and Hjem-Is Europa, a distributor of ice cream in Scandinavia.

IK did not reveal whether there would be major management restructuring on the back of the deal.

The private equity group maintains its interest in the snack category lies in the fact that it shows potential for further private label market penetration.

Nut sales

Nuts and other snack foods are the heart of the French pre-dinner aperitif tradition, which has experienced a revival in recent years. However, nuts sales face stiff competition from snack foods such as meats, chips, dips, and chilled dairy items intended for consumption during the aperitif.

French consumers are increasingly interested in healthy and ‘natural’ foods, and nuts are perceived as a wholesome snack, with the more successful snack food products of recent years being those that featured new, exotic flavours such as sweet and salty, chili, sweet and sour, as well as reduced salt and fat or a combination of the two.

Euromonitor notes growing interest in pre-dinner aperitifs in France where value growth is at 4.5 per cent compared with a volume growth of under 0.5 per cent. The market analysts comment that the pre-dinner snack trend combined with the greater interest in novel flavours has fuelled a rise in premium 'aperitif-style' snack launches.

Last year saw Brittany based manufacturer, Altho, launching Bret’s Super Craquantes in chorizo and pesto flavours and Provence Chips bringing out a purple potato range – Blue Chips. Pepsico France, which bought out Bénénuts in 2009, launched Bénénuts Sensations Exotiques to tap into this trend.

And Lay, hoping to leverage the trend for health and indulgence, last year brought out its Cuites au Four snack range - oven baked clean label chips with 70 per cent less fat than its traditional crisps.

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