Co Down-based consumer foods producer Around Noon eyes targets

Newry, Co Down-based consumer foods producer Around Noon is looking for further acquisitions in the UK following its purchase of the UK-focused ‘Chef in a Box’ premium snack business from Donegal Investment Group for an undisclosed sum.

The family-owned company has been in business for 25 years and employs more than 300 people. Its main business is the supply of food-to-go products for the likes of Starbucks and Henderson Group, which operates the Spar and Vivo convenience retail chains in the North.

It also supplies a number of cafes in the Republic.

The addition of ‘Chef in a Box’ will broaden its presence to London and the south-east of England, where the former Donegal Group subsidiary produces premium sandwich and snack packs to clients in the hospitality, education and corporate sectors.

“Acquiring the company gives us the presence and infrastructure required to have a significant impact in the UK market”, said Around Noon’s chief executive Gareth Chambers whose family established the Newry business.

Chairman Howard Farquhar added: “Food-to-go is a high-growth category and we see London as a very significant opportunity for us, as well as a platform for further UK expansion, including other potential acquisitions.”

The rise in the ‘little and often’ grocery shopping trend, coupled with the enduring popularity in coffee culture, has boosted the food-to-go segment of the UK consumer foods market to an estimated value of £16bn (€18bn). Earlier this year, Donegal Investment Group (formerly Donegal Creameries) reported a doubling in first-half profits to €2.3m but a €3.5m fall in interim turnover to €46.4m due to the cessation of some trading activities in its UK seed potato business.

The increasingly agri- services focused group also announced a decision to scrap dividend payments to shareholders “for the foreseeable future”, saying it would look to return capital to investors by way of “the more tax-efficient form of a share buy-back programme”.

The ‘Chef in a Box’ sale is part of an ongoing non-core asset disposal programme.


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