The UK’s number-one frozen Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes brand, Aunt Bessie’s “was a very profitable business, based on everything to do with the Sunday lunch occasion”, the expert said.
However, there were “question marks over how much growth there is in that in-home lunch occasion market when so much is now moving out of home”, he added.
Nomad said the deal, announced on Monday, gave its Birds Eye brand the opportunity to expand its portfolio into the roast dinner meal occasion. Roast dinner was the fifth-largest meal occasion in the UK, eaten 1.3 billion times a year, the company added.
It planned to continue to drive growth in the frozen food category by offering categories and occasions that complemented the existing Birds Eye portfolio.
Nomad was clearly looking to build a very substantial frozen food group on the back of Birds Eye, Findus Europe and Goodfella’s, the expert said.
‘£100m+ turnover frozen food business’
“To that extent, Aunt Bessie’s is a £100m+ turnover frozen food business that fits with Nomad’s other products,” he explained.
“Nomad appears to have paid a full enough price, though the multiple is not unreasonable for a profitable, branded business. It looks like a very good deal for William Jackson Food Group.
“It will be interesting to see if, and how, WJFG, as a family business, chooses to reinvest the proceeds.”
Created in 1995, Hull-based Aunt Bessie’s now has annual retail sales of more than £140m. In addition to roast dinner accompaniments, the Aunt Bessie’s range also includes savoury and sweet pies, toad in the hole and desserts.
With both Aunt Bessie’s and Goodfella’s Pizza under its umbrella, Nomad said that, through Birds Eye, it intended to continue to drive growth in the frozen food category by offering categories and occasions that complemented its existing portfolio.
Aunt Bessie’s was a historic family brand, loved by shoppers and built on strong values and quality product credentials that aligned perfectly with Birds Eye’s ethos, said Birds Eye UK managing director Wayne Hudson.
‘The opportunity of driving further growth’
“We have long admired what the team at WJFG have achieved with Aunt Bessie’s. Combined with Birds Eye and the recently acquired pizza brands (Goodfella’s and San Marco), we are excited about the opportunity of driving further growth in the frozen food category,” Hudson said.
“The acquisition will also welcome around 400 new colleagues to the Birds Eye business and we are extremely passionate about working with them to increase investment into the category and grow even more consumer love for the frozen food aisle.”
WJFG chairman Nicholas Oughtred said: “As a responsible business owner, we must do what we believe is right for every one of our businesses and this sale presents a great, long-term opportunity for Aunt Bessie’s.
“Aunt Bessie’s has come a long way with us. We’ve invested heavily in developing the business and the brand, and Nomad Foods is well placed to take the business even further.
“Nomad Foods is a well-known food group with a strong commitment to the frozen category, incredible experience, scale and investment capabilities and I’m sure Aunt Bessie’s will continue to thrive.”
The sale is subject to regulatory clearances and WJFG will remain the owner of Aunt Bessie’s until its expected completion in Q3 2018.
In January, Nomad Foods acquired Goodfella’s Pizza from 2 Sisters Food Group owner Boparan Holdings, in a deal worth €225m (£199m).