ITALY – French multinational dairy products corporation, Lactalis has entered into exclusive negotiations with Bel Group to acquire its Dutch cheese brand  Leerdammer, as part of efforts to bosst its European presence.

Apart from the Leedammer brand, FoodBev reported that the two companies have signed unilateral promises which will see Lactalis acquire also acquire Royal Bel Leerdammer, Bel Shostka Ukraine, and its businesses in Italy and Germany.

Under the terms of the deal, Bel subsidiary Sicopa will sell the aforementioned assets in exchange for Lactalis’ 23.16% equity stake in Bel.  Lactalis will hold a remaining 0.9% stake in Bel after the deal is completed.

Leerdammer is a Dutch semihard cheese made from cow’s milk and has an ageing time around 3–12 months.

The cheese has a creamy white texture and was made to be similar in appearance and flavor to Emmental, but it is rounder in taste.

Since Bel bought Leerdammer in 2002, its sales and earnings have allegedly nearly doubled. As of 31 December 2021, Leerdammer and Bel Shostka Ukraine revenues stood at approximately €500 million (about US$594.89 million).

A boost to Lactalis Presence in Europe

The deal will provide Lactalis entry into the Dutch cheese market and production in Holland through three manufacturing plants.

The French dairy multinational adds that the acquisition will also boost its European presence, particularly in Italy and Germany, and further solidify its presence in Ukraine.

Lactalis Group chairman, Emmanuel Besnier, said: “We welcome Leerdammer and we’re excited by the prospect of building on the growth of this iconic brand that people adore.

The transfer to us of Bel’s Italian, German and Ukrainian sales subsidiaries will boost our facilities in these countries benefiting both Leerdammer and other Bel product sales on these markets.”

Bel, on the other hand, aims to boost growth of its three complementary market segments – dairy, fruits and plant-based – and step up its moves in the Asia Pacific and North America markets.

The company says the divestiture is in line with its strategy, as it aims to move beyond cheese products and become a major healthy snacking player.

Bel Group chairman and CEO, Antoine Fievet, said: “In line with our strategic priorities, we continue to grow our business and take on three further market segments, namely dairy, fruit and plant-based, and so reinforce our healthy snacking major player position.

“For Leerdammer, this deal means a unique chance to have the backing of Lactalis, which will have the wherewithal to support it for its upcoming challenges.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2021, following regulatory approval.

Lactalis Canada completes acquisition of Ultima Foods

Earlier this month, Lactalis Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Lactalis Group, has closed the acquisition of all shares of Agropur Cooperative’s Canadian yogurt business, Ultima Foods Inc.

Under the terms of the agreement announced in December 2020, the acquisition includes the IÖGO and IÖGO nanö yogurt brands as well as the Olympic yogurt, sour cream and ker brand.

In addition, Lactalis Canada will have control of Ultima Foods’ production facilities in Granby, QC, and Delta, BC, and a leased distribution center in Longueuil, QC.

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