Lambert told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “R&R is talking to other ice cream businesses and remains firmly on the acquisition trail.”
The firm continues to investigate acquisition opportunities in France, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Eastern Europe, he said. R&R already operates a factory in Poland.
The latest Italian acquisition gives R&R “an immediate and major presence” in Europe’s major ice cream market, said Lambert.
“Italy is Europe’s largest ice cream market and Eskigel is the dominant private label manufacturer in the sector. It has a strong reputation for product innovation and operates from a modern factory near Rome.”
The Italian firm reported net sales of £63.6M (€81M) last year. Claimed to be the leading own-label ice cream manufacturer in Italy, Eskigel produces ice cream sticks, ice lollies, cones, mini-cups, tubs and ice cream sandwiches at its factory at Terni, north of Rome.
“Eskigel has been instrumental in growing the own-label ice cream sector in Italy,” said Lambert. “We intend to build on this strong position ensuring continuity to the business and to customers’ relationships.”
Eskigel’s chairman Stefania de Santis and ceo Giuseppe Listanti together with the existing management team will retain their current positions. “We look forward to a long and successful partnership,” said Lambert.
The latest acquisition reinforced R&R’s bid to rival Unilever in the European ice cream market. “We are a clear number two to Unilever in the European take home market,” he said.
Unilever’s market strength
Unilever’s market strength coupled with the effects of recession was putting pressure on family ice cream businesses throughout Europe, Lambert told FoodManufacture.co.uk last year. That made a growing number of firms ripe for acquisition.
In the past 12 months R&R has acquired German and French ice cream businesses and forged key business partnerships with firms such as Kraft Foods.
R&R Ice Cream was itself reportedly offered for sale earlier this year by its majority owner Oaktree Capital Management. R&R was launched six years ago when Oaktree combined Richmond Foods with French firm Roncadin.
Meanwhile, Lambert is one of six leading food and drink industry leaders nominated for the Food Manufacture Personality of the Year Award.
View the other five candidates and cast your vote by clicking here .
R&R business scoops
- August 2012 ‒ Eskigel (£60.5M)
- December 2011 ‒ German firm Durigon Gelato (undisclosed sum)
- September 2011 ‒ Pilpa, ice cream division of French firm Maison Boncolac (£13.8M plus £7.1M stock options).