Calbee UK acquires Seabrook Crisps

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Robinson: ‘This strong alliance will provide mutual benefit and long-term success'. Credit: Ginger Pixie Photography
Robinson: ‘This strong alliance will provide mutual benefit and long-term success'. Credit: Ginger Pixie Photography
Calbee UK has bought Seabrook Crisps for an undisclosed sum.

Calbee UK is the subsidiary of Japan-based $2.3bn global snack company Calbee Inc. Its 80 UK employees operate from its factory in North Wales and a commercial office in Leeds.

Seabrook, which employs 160 people, will continue to operate from its Bradford base, led by chief executive Jonathan Bye. Chief operating officer Daniel Woodwards and commercial director Jon Wood would also in their current roles, according to private equity firm Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), which first backed the management buyout of the iconic crisp brand in 2015. LDC held a 75% share in the business, while Bye, Woodwards and Wood, together with chairman Paul Monk, owned the other 25%.

“We are hugely excited by the obvious fit that Seabrook represents for us in bringing the mainstream snack of potato-based crisps into our product portfolio,” ​said Richard Robinson, managing director of Calbee UK.

“Bringing together Calbee UK, which boldly strives to disrupt the UK snacking category through exciting innovation, with the strength of the iconic, dynamic, challenger Seabrook brand, is a powerful move to leverage our combined strengths, accelerate our growth and increase our market penetration.

Local hero brands

“Seabrook is a company with a great history, tradition and numerous first-to-market initiatives and serves as a perfect complement to the ambitious, young business that is Calbee UK. We are firm believers in the power of iconic, local hero brands, and we aim to leverage these strengths for further expansion. This strong alliance will provide mutual benefit and long-term success for both companies and their colleagues.” 

Over the past three years, LDC has supported the growth of the business through new product development, investment in its manufacturing facilities and driving international sales opportunities, which have helped to grow the Seabrook brand. 

Seabrook chief executive Jonathan Bye said: “On behalf of the management team and everyone at Seabrook, I’d like to thank LDC for its commitment and support. Since LDC invested in our business in July 2015 the team has gone above and beyond, partnering with us to invest in our facilities and prime the business for future growth. 

“The team invested more than £5m into our site in Bradford and we now have excellent operational facilities. It’s only with their support that we have been able to outperform the crisp category with the Seabrook brand, won significant new private-label business and expanded overseas.”

‘Ambitious plans’

“We have ambitious plans and are looking forward to delivering these as part of the Calbee family.” 

In accounts filed at Companies House in December last year, covering the year to March 2018, Seabrook declared pre-tax profit of £5m on sales of £29.8m. The company makes a range of straight-cut, lattice and crinkle-cut crisps. It has targeted health-conscious consumers with its products by removing monosodium glutamate, becoming Coeliac UK certified as gluten-free, claiming vegetarian-friendly status and aiming for clean labels.

Calbee Inc already boasts Yushoi, Rustiks and Harvest Snaps among its portfolio.

The transaction was led by investment director Simon Braham and senior director Ged Gould at LDC in Manchester.

‘International markets’

Gould added: “In the three years we’ve backed Seabrook, the business has invested heavily in its manufacturing facilities and successfully entered new international markets. Seabrook is an iconic northern brand and the team has capitalised on the increased demand for ‘made in the UK’ products, successfully taking their crisps to new fans worldwide. 

“Jonathan and his team are hugely ambitious and becoming part of the Calbee UK family creates a number of new growth opportunities for Seabrook moving forward. We wish the team every success on the next phase of their journey.”

Calbee UK were advised by Spayne Lindsay & Co on corporate matters, KPMG on financial matters and Walker Morris LLP on legal matters. LDC and Seabrook management were advised by Houlihan Lokey on corporate matters and Addleshaw Goddard LLP on legal matters.

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