Food group seals sweet deal with desserts manufacturer

Regal Food Products Group Plc, the Yorkshire-based food group behind brands Regal Bakery, Regal Foods and Yorkshire Baking Company, have acquired premium desserts manufacturer Just Desserts for an undisclosed sum – backed by the commercial team at Virgin Money UK. Established in 1985 in Shipley, West Yorkshire, Just Desserts specialise in baking a range of over 130 hand-crafted desserts and cakes, that are distributed throughout the food service industry. The range of hand-crafted desserts include tarts, cheesecakes and gateaux which already are well established within restaurants, cafes, and retail outlets. The acquisition of Just Desserts will add to the growing success of Regal Foods Group, whilst complementing and broadening the offer available within the food service and retail industry. Younis Chaudhry, CEO of Regal Food Products Group Plc, adds: “We immediately recognised a business that presented itself with opportunity, not just for us as a food group but also for our customers. “New product development and innovation has always been at the forefront of our work and bringing Just Desserts and it’s team of craft bakers into the fold, enables us to offer flexibility and the scope to develop the growing range of quality products that are on offer within the retail and wholesale sector. Further developments will also see the high-quality desserts available through ecommerce platforms. “We are extremely proud to be scaling our portfolio beyond the circle of Regal founded brands and branching out to becoming new owners of Just Desserts – a bakery that harnesses true craftsmanship within the confectionery industry.” James O’Dwyer, former Managing Director, adds: “We are delighted and excited to be joining the Regal Foods family and know that the Just Desserts brand and all the team behind its success are in the best possible hands to ensure its future growth and prosperity. It really is exciting times ahead.” Younis Chaudhry confirmed the acquisition will mean business as usual for Just Desserts, which will continue to run as an independent business whilst benefiting from the recourses and ongoing investment the group has to offer. The acquisition was advised by Mazars, Clarion Solicitors and BHP Corporate Finance.

Seasonal Worker visa route extended until end of 2024 for UK horticulture sector

The Home Office and DEFRA have announced that the Seasonal Worker visa route will be extended until the end of 2024, which allows foreign workers to come to the UK for up to six months to work in the horticulture sector. There will be 30,000 visas available this year, but this will be kept under review with the potential to increase by 10,000 if necessary. The number of visas will begin to taper down from 2023 and the sector will have to improve pay and conditions. Following the 2019 review of the pilot, the Home Office has reviewed the requirements placed on the scheme operators and updated the seasonal worker sponsor guidance to tighten the compliance requirements. Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, Kevin Foster, said: “The extension to the Seasonal Worker visa route strikes the right balance of supporting the industry while it transitions to employing and prioritising domestic workers.” Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “We had a seasonal worker scheme for agriculture from the time of the second world war and long before we joined the EU. We recognise that agriculture has unique and seasonal requirements for labour at harvest and have listened to our world leading fresh produce industry to understand their needs.” Changes to the route, which has run since 2019, will force companies to pay those using the route a minimum salary to discourage poor conditions. The changes follow a review of the seasonal workers pilot which found the reliance on foreign labour held down wages, disincentivised investment and discouraged workers (both resident and non-resident) into these roles. While the visa scheme will continue to allow seasonal workers to come to the UK, the government has demanded a plan from the sector to cut the reliance on foreign labour.

Natural colours supplier continues growth with acquisition of Food Ingredient Solutions

Oterra, the supplier of natural colours, continues its strong growth acceleration announcing the acquisition of Food Ingredient Solutions. Founded in 1999, Food Ingredient Solutions is an American producer of colours and natural antioxidants, with a strong exposure to, and growth from, natural colours. The company serves more than 400 customers annually and has two certified processing facilities located in Teterboro, New Jersey, and Marshfield, Missouri. Oterra continues its strong growth with multiple complementary bolt-on acquisitions since its inception, including the acquisition of SECNA Natural Ingredients Group S.L. and Diana Food’s colouring business in Europe earlier in 2021. Food Ingredient Solutions will mark its first US-based acquisition. “North America is one of the fastest-growing natural colours markets, and this acquisition puts Oterra in a great position to further support our customers in the conversion towards natural colours,” said Cees de Jong, chairman, Oterra. Jeff Greaves, founder and CEO of Food Ingredient Solutions, will join Oterra. “I’m thrilled that Food Ingredient Solutions will become a part of Oterra. We have a strong local presence and great customer relationships, and as Oterra we will be able to offer our customers access to the most extensive portfolio of natural colours in the world,” said Greaves. “We look forward to welcoming the Food Ingredient Solutions team to Oterra. They will join a strong team of dedicated natural colour specialists from around the world, and their addition will be met with excitement, especially from our US employees as we further strengthen our US position,” said Odd Erik Hansen, CEO, Oterra.

Schouten Europe takes over Nijland Food

The Dutch family business Schouten Europe, producer of meat and fish substitutes, is taking over Nijland Food from Goor, the Netherlands which recently declared bankruptcy. Schouten will take over all buildings and machines and said it is committed to ensuring that as many Nijland employees as possible can keep their jobs. The market for plant-based alternatives to meat and fish has been steadily growing. Competition within the market has also increased. “We have always outsourced production and packaging in order to remain flexible and focus on innovation. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing shortage in production and packaging capacity. This did not benefit our market position. This acquisition offers us room to grow further,” says CEO and owner Henk Schouten. Schouten and Nijland are no strangers. Nijland has been packaging products for Schouten for 12 years. Several Schouten products have also been produced at Nijland for five years. Nijland also packaged products for other parties. Chicken was also processed in a separate hall. “We are specialists in the development, production, and packaging of plant-based products. Processing chicken does not fit in with that. We will therefore not continue this,” says Schouten. The acquisition of Nijland does not mean that Schouten will produce and package all its products itself. “We have a strong network of specialised and valued production partners who will continue to add value to our company and with whom we are happy to continue to working with,” says Schouten.

Sushi rice prices explode

People who love sushi will have to pay more or go without as the UK is about to experience a significant increase in the price of sushi rice. Ingredients experts, Eurostar Commodities warn that the since September 2020 freight costs alone have increased approximately 19%. Raw material has increased by approximately 35% due to short supply and very high demand. There may not be enough rice produced globally this harvest to satisfy 100% of demand this year (2021-2022) creating a potential shortage in the market. Price of paddy rice is increasing and will no longer be available on the open market from March 2022. By Spring, the forecast is that there will be no paddy rice left in the entire global market. There will be 13% less rice available in total volume than the previous year, meanwhile global demand is soaring. This includes round grain and long grain and extends into the various cereal processing industries that are dependent on rice as a key ingredient. Ingredients expert, Jason Bull, director, Eurostar Commodities, said: “Right now the entire industry is clamouring to buy the rice that they need, and this is driving the price up further. This cycle is going to continue into Spring 2022 increasing prices even further. The prediction is that this will affect the price of products for consumers especially consumption of sushi in restaurants and supermarkets. I have heard industry people describing it even though we are at the beginning of the new harvest ‘the prices are like we are at the end.’” Much of the sushi rice consumed in the UK comes from paddy fields in Northern Italy where the rice harvest begins in the Autumn. However, Europe does not grow enough rice to fulfil demand and so it is topped up with rice from the rest of the world – but this year they will also have a massive shortfall due to freight and logistical issues. Major rice producing countries include Thailand, Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, South America and Italy. The situation in Italy is that there are continued increases in the price of paddy due to short supply and this is forecast to continue over the next few months. Compared with one year ago it is now more expensive to transport the product from the far east than it is to produce it. Energy, transport and packaging costs have all increased as well as surcharges being imposed on freight due to ‘UK congestion’ at ports. Lack of drivers is also affecting availability and increasing delays. Total cost of rice has increased dramatically year on year driven by freight rate spikes and limited import options from EBA (duty free) countries. However, pressure is on Italy’s supply to fulfil domestic demand, and price of global rice is so expensive that it is not a viable option to meet the shortfall.

Getir snaps up Ace+Freak

Crafty canned cocktail brand Ace+Freak has been snapped up by ultra-fast grocery home delivery service Getir in a swift move that makes it available nationwide for the first time, in time for new year celebrations. In a deal brokered by purpose-led drinks firm Ten Locks, Ace+Freak Mint & Elderflower Spritz (5.5% ABV), Ginger & Lemongrass Mule (5.5% ABV) and Watermelon & Cucumber Sangria (4% abv) will be listed nationally, available across 34 major cities where Getir have distribution. The brand will be featured on the Getir: Groceries In Minutes app for home delivery within as little as 10 minutes. A drinks range with its finger on the pulse it brings bold branding and an exceptional quality cocktail serve to the booming canned RTD sector. Ace+Freak appeals directly to the millennial consumer; bar quality drinks that look and taste great, made to the highest standard and in the most sustainable way possible. Ace+Freak’s recipes are designed by Thomas Soden, a multi-award-winning mixologist and co-owner of Nine Lives cocktail bar in London. Soden co-founded the brand after writing two books, over 300 cocktail menus and racking up 15,000 hours of cocktail-making-experience. Every can of Ace+Freak is made with high quality craft spirits, 100 percent natural ingredients, pressed fruit juices and purées, and wines sourced directly from co-operatives. The team at Ace+Freak distil their own botanical spirits specifically for each recipe. Becky Davis, head of commercial at Ten Locks, says: “Getir and Ace + Freak share an ethos of disruption and a hyper-focus on millennials. Bringing together the two creative, top quality and razor-sharp propositions mean we can insert Ace + Freak into lesser tapped territories; impromptu get-togethers, outdoor drinks and drinks at home. The real win is that drinks at these occasions can now be every bit as good as when a bartender makes them.” RTD volume share is expected to double in the next five years in top markets with ready-to-drink products anticipated to command 8% of Total Beverage Alcohol by 2025.[1] Davies continues: “With all eyes on RTDs and the love consumers have for brands that are striving forward with true purpose, coupled with convenient, tech-based quick commerce platforms asserting themselves among consumers, Ace + Freak and Getir are well positioned for a powerful partnership.” Earlier this year Ace + Freak successfully crowdfunded £250,000 investment to fund further growth and further expand into the ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail market.

Seafood Scotland awarded £100,000 to support industry with new training programme

Seafood Scotland has been awarded £100,000 of funding from the National Transition Training Fund and Skills Development Scotland to support onshore activities of seafood businesses across the country, upskilling and training employees to support company growth. Delivered by a range of training providers, the ‘Business Improvement Programme’ will provide bespoke training packages to companies to help support their objectives. Free webinars and funded courses will be available to meet business and team needs and strategic goals. Companies will have access to over 60 courses covering four key training areas: 1. Upskilling and multiskilling staff – training for employees and teams 2. Career recruitment and retention toolkits for businesses – helping to develop recruitment and retention policies 3. Process automation and business implications 4. Women in Seafood in Scotland The programme will be delivered to current staff members over the age of 25, using flexible and hybrid methods, such as self-taught online modules and guided virtual sessions. Courses range from fish frying, knife skills and monger training to customer and human resource services, as well as guidance on business planning and strategy. The National Transition Training Fund was launched in 2020 by Skills Development Scotland following the rise in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme aims to give individuals the opportunity to gain industry recognised qualifications to support with employment. Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive at Seafood Scotland, said: “It’s important that the businesses in our onshore seafood sector continue to grow and this funding can help them do just that. With the support received from the National Transition Training Fund and Skills Development Scotland, we will help companies plan their training opportunities and the courses available to them in line with their business objectives. “The window for this funding is open until March and I would strongly encourage any onshore seafood businesses to take this great opportunity to upskill and train staff without the burden of additional costs.” Gerry McBride, Strategic Relations Manager – Food & Drink at Skills Development Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to see this valuable work given the green light and now being able to see the positive impact it will have to seafood businesses across Scotland. “Given all the challenges the sector has been forced to face into over the past two years due to the pandemic and other huge obstacles, everyone recognises the need for businesses to be as agile as possible. “The programme will enable businesses to retrain, upskill and adapt their workforce to meet the ever-changing requirements of the marketplace and the economic landscape. We’re really looking forward to seeing all this excellent work coming to fruition.”

Inquiry launched into UK-Australia free trade deal

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has launched an inquiry into the impact the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) the UK Government has signed with Australia will have on farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers.
The Government has said the arrangement with Australia will boost the economy by £2.3 billion and add £900 million to household wages in the long-run. It has further called it a gateway to the UK joining a wider trading arrangement – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This Australia FTA is the first ‘new’ trade deal the UK Government has signed since leaving the European Union (EU), as opposed to ‘rolled over’ agreements based on former deals the UK had with different parts of the world when it was an EU member. The inquiry will examine, among other things, the impact the agreement will have on consumers, farmers, food producers and retailers; whether the deal will reflect the UK’s commitment to high animal welfare and environmental practice; and the implications of the FTA for future trade deals with other parts of the world.

UK food and drink sees a significant and persistent drop in exports

UK exports of food and drink are down £2.7bn (-15.9%) in the first three quarters of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). This is largely due to a drop in sales to the EU of £2.4bn (-23.7%) resulting from new barriers to trade with the EU and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exports to core markets including Germany (-44.5%), Italy (-43.3%) and Spain (-50.6%) have been particularly badly hit since 2019, while UK exports to Ireland – the industry’s biggest overseas market – are down more than a quarter since 2019. This represents a loss of nearly £0.75bn in sales. Global exports of whisky and salmon have started to recover, with sales of both products up 21% compared to 2020. All other major products, including beef (-18.4%), cheese (-13.2%) and pork (-5.7%) have continued to decline, with the exception of soft drinks which grew 11% from 2020. More positive news can be seen in non-EU markets in the past year, with exports up 11%, driven by a return to strong growth in China (+22.1%), Taiwan (+21.8%), the UAE (+18.3%), Japan (+10.6%) and Singapore (+5.4%). Imports have been badly impacted since 2019, with sales from the EU down nearly 11% in the nine months to September compared to pre-COVID levels – a fall of more than £2.5bn. Imports from the Netherlands (-19%), Ireland (-20.1%) and Germany (-33.1%) were most severely hit over the last two years. With the UK due to implement its delayed import controls on products arriving from the EU in 2022, this will further impact the cost and availability of supplies of food and drink from the EU, including essential ingredients and raw materials required by UK manufacturers. Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade, the FDF, said: “It is extremely disappointing to see how badly our trade with the EU has been affected, with our smallest exporters hardest hit. It is essential that the Government works constructively with the EU to improve the implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure that it works for small businesses, otherwise this downturn will be here to stay. “The UK Government’s recent announcement of plans to take forward the FDF’s proposals to set up a new Food and Drink Export Council and put in place new in-market support are welcome. It is vital that the UK Government and devolved nations continue to work with industry to put in place a new model of partnership to support food and drink exporters. “Food and drink, from farm-to-fork is uniquely placed to deliver on the Government’s levelling up agenda, delivering jobs and growth in every part of the UK. However, our supply chains continue to struggle, particularly through a lack of available workers. Businesses want to help the Government realise its Global Britain ambitions, but they need Government to clear the obstacles and help them take advantage of new opportunities.” John Whitehead, Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), said: “The much-needed bounce back for salmon, whisky and soft drink exports is a real boost for the industry. It’s also encouraging to see meat sales to ASEAN countries rising driven by an increasing demand for pork. Our In Market Associates in both ASEAN and GCC markets report that there is also strong demand for added value products from the UK. It is the SME producers of value-added products hit hard by both Brexit and the pandemic who continue to need support to take advantage of these opportunities.”

JBS acquires King’s Group and premium Italian charcuterie brands

JBS, the protein-based food company, has signed an agreement to acquire 100% of King’s Group by its subsidiary Rigamonti, currently the leader in production of bresaola. With this acquisition, JBS will have a presence in Italy’s three largest regions for specialties of pork with the D.O.P. and I.G.P. seals — Protected Denomination of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication. These classifications used by the European Union recognize the quality and unique characteristics of food produced in specific locations. With the investment of €82 million (US$ 92.5 million), the company acquires four plants in Italy, two in the province of Parma, one in Vicenza and the fourth in Udine, as well as the entire operation of Principe in the United States, which includes a plant dedicated to slicing cuts in New Jersey. The deal also covers the commercial operations of two historic brands renowned for their high quality in the Italian delicatessen market: King’s brand, founded in 1907 in Sossano, in the Veneto region, recognized by the Italian government as a “Historical Brand of National Interest”, and Principe brand, founded in 1945 in Trieste, in the region of Friulli-Venezia Giulia. Rigamonti now holds a 20% equity stake in Piggly, Italy’s first producer of sustainable, 100% antibiotic-free pigs, with facilities in Mantova and Verona. Present in the United States and in over 20 countries, King’s Group is a market leader in the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele D.O.P. and is an important player in the production of Prosciutto di Parma D.O.P., in addition to producing specialties like GranSpeck and Prosciutto Veneto D.O.P. The entire management of these assets will be assumed by Rigamonti, world leader in the production of Bresaola I.G.P. The acquisition of King’s Group facilities and brands is strategic to the expansion of JBS in the United States and Europe, but also in other regions because the company will now have a portfolio and structure for producing and distributing authentic Italian specialties like prosciutto, bresaola, bologna sausage, speck and salami with certification of origin, using craft manufacturing and curing techniques. “This acquisition is in line with our strategic approach of growing in high value-added products. It puts us among the leaders in Italian ‘salumeria’ and leverages our commercial strategy in the US, where we are investing US$ 200 million in an Italian specialties plant. The growth potential of the King’s and Príncipe brands in Europe and the United States is significant,” said Gilberto Tomazoni, JBS global CEO. “We are certain that JBS will work to preserve the intangible value of our brands and products with certification of origin, protecting the history of these veritable items of Italian heritage as it has already done with Rigamonti,” said Claudio Palladi, Rigamonti CEO. JBS will also reap additional synergy in the US market where the company’s subsidiary Swift Prepared Foods is building a new Italian meats and charcuterie facility in Columbia, Missouri, expected to open in 2022. The deal was approved by the JBS board of directors and will be concluded after approval by antitrust authorities.