The Italian chocolatier has plans to take over the whole of the Derbyshire-based company, FoodManufacture.co.uk understands.
Ferrero had been interested in Thorntons for some years now, according to a source close to the deal, who did not want to be named.
Acquiring Thorntons would allow Ferrero to broaden its roots in the UK, giving it access to manufacturing and distribution facilities, the source added.
Thorntons chairman Paul Wilkinson, who sold his shares, said the offer was an “attractive premium” to the company’s share price over the past three months.
‘Strong as a company’
“Although the prospects for Thorntons as an independent company remain strong as the company embarks on the next phase of its strategy.
“The board of Thorntons also recognised the potential benefits to the brand and the business, including employees and all stakeholders from combining with the Ferrero Group,” he added.
Ferrero had a successful global confectionery business with a strong family heritage, which represented a “good cultural” fit with Thorntons, he said.
As a result, the board of Thorntons gave its unanimous recommendation for the offer from Ferrero.
Giovanni Ferrero, chief executive of Ferrero, said: “This transaction brings together two highly complementary businesses, but more importantly it unites two companies that share the same passion for growing brands, and a proud heritage, drive and culture built upon their family foundations.
“We have long admired Thorntons and what they have achieved in the UK as demonstrated by their tremendous customer loyalty, and we look forward to working with their experienced team.”
Recession hit Ferrero’s plans
Meanwhile, the UK’s recession hit Ferrero’s plans to build a new production facility in England, FoodManufacture.co.uk revealed last year.
Christian Walter, the firm’s former md for UK and Ireland, told this website in 2011 that Ferrero planned to build a new factory in the UK to meet increasing demand for its Nutella-branded hazelnut spread, which is currently supplied from France.
Yet, the plans were shelved as a consequence of the longer than expected recession here, which forced the company to shift its focus to emerging markets, such as Brazil and Mexico, Jason Sutherland, Ferrero’s sales director for UK and Ireland said.
“It’s a better business decision to open a factory in Brazil and Mexico to supply those [emerging] markets, rather than opening one in the UK, which can be supplied by Europe,” he said.
Ferrero currently has a distribution hub in Wolverhampton, but the firm still planned on opening a manufacturing facility here, Sutherland claimed.