Fresh from acquiring starch derivatives company Cerestar, privately-held US company Cargill throws another European ingredients company into its shopping trolley with the purchase of French cocoa and chocolate ingredients company OCG Cacoa.
Not even five years old, the youthful French company with a turnover of €130 million and 160 employees represents Cargill's first significant investment in chocolate manufacturing in Europe.
Involvement in the European chocolate industry for the agri-business giant Cargill - one of the top five global processors of cocoa beans - largely revolves around supplying liquor, butter and powder. Through this latest acquisition the US company enters a domaine that ranges from chocolate and cocoa ingredients to gourmet chocolate products for artisans.
"Combining OCG with Cargill's cocoa business is an excellent strategic fit," said Guillaume Bastiaens, vice-chairman of Cargill.
A €50 million investment into the OCG Cocoa group since its inception has helped the company deliver 70 000 tons of finished products - of which 55 000 tons were chocolate - in 2001.
Today OCG Cocoa has four manufacturing plants rooted in Belgium, France and the UK and according to a recent statement from the company, 11 per cent of the european market, moving towards its objective of more than 21 per cent by the end of 2004.
"In joining Cargill, OCG will have the opportunity to continue its rapid growth and will continue to offer industrial chocolate customers the best quality and service in the market," said Jean Chenal, CEO of OCG.
The purchase is subject to regulatory approval but Cargill is hopeful that the acquisition could be completed by the end of the year.
Although OCG Cacao is the first investment in European chocolate manufacturing for the US giant, Cargill entered the US equivalent market more than 10 years ago, buying the Wilbur Chocolate company that produces over 150 million pounds of chocolate products, and various food ingredients, each year. In October last year Cargill built on the Wilbur operations with the acquisition of premium chocolates supplier Peter's Chocolate from Nestle USA.