USA – Lactalis Group, the world’s largest dairy company, is selling its US feta cheese manufacturer Athenos to Emmi Roth USA, a business unit of the Emmi Roth Group.
Athenos has an extensive presence in the US retail and foodservice sectors and generated approximately US$90 million in sales in 2020.
Lactalis Group acquired the Athenos business as well as several other cheese brands this past September from the Kraft Heinz Co. in a US$3.2 billion transaction.
Antitrust regulators in the United States raised concerns about some aspects of the deal and Lactalis Group agreed to sell Athenos to Emmi Roth to clear the path for approval of the larger transaction.
The transaction between Emmi and Lactalis essentially comprises the rights to the Athenos brand as well as other existing rights and contracts in connection with this business.
The products themselves have been contract manufactured, processed and distributed to order for some years, and Emmi said it is keen to preserve this established value chain.
According to Emmi Roth, the acquisition made for an undisclosed amount will enable it to offer its US customers “an even more extensive and attractive range of products.”
“With Athenos, the No. 1 brand in the US feta market will be joining Emmi. We are well suited for further developing this business successfully,” said Matthias Kunz, executive vice president of Emmi’s Americas division.
“Athnos will strengthen our position in the strategically important US market and therefore also our growing export business from Switzerland as we can offer our customers an even more extensive and attractive range of products.”
Emmi says feta cheese has benefited from the healthier-eating trend and further changes in consumer behavior over the past two years.
Emmi’s statements are corroborated by Ian Bjerga, senior vice president of communications for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) who notes that there is a shift in dairy consumption away from fluid milk and more toward cheese and other products.
The Swiss-based company expects this trend to continue for some time, fueling the growth of the feta cheese market.
The integration of Athenos into Emmi Roth USA is therefore strategic as it offers growth potential in complementary distribution channels, particularly in the retail and foodservice sectors.
Simultaneously, Emmi’s export business is expected to profit from the additional sales offering and therefore continue its positive trend from previous years.
At the same time, Athenos can benefit from Emmi Roth USA’s marketing and approach new consumers through digital marketing and social media.
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