UK confectioner Zetar is aiming to make GBP10m (US$16.5m) in sales in Europe over the next three years after opening its first office on the Continent.

Zetar, which makes confectionery and snacks under own label and through licence agreements with food and drink brand owners, has opened an office in Lille to handle its fledgling business in France and Belgium.

CEO Ian Blackburn, who set up Zetar seven years ago, said he wanted the company to be a "pan-European business" from the outset. "There are similarities [with the UK] in taste and the way things are going particularly on healthier snacks and they sell character licence confectionery over there already," he told just-food.

Blackburn said his aim was to break into Europe via an acquisition but that, he said, had so far proved impossible. "Our share price has not enabled us to realise that dream - for the time being anyway," he said.

Zetar has been selling products into France and Belgium from the UK and nine months ago decided to establish a sales office. The company has since secured three licences, including an agreement to sell products using The Simpsons brand in the two markets. "Longer term, we think there will be scope for our healthier, premium snack products. The French market is moving in the same way as the UK; people are looking for healthier snacking," Blackburn added.

The company is looking to supply France's top eight retailers and, looking ahead, Blackburn set out his sales target for the group's new European business.

"I think we'll be disappointed if, after three years, we haven't achieved north of GBP5-10m extra sales," he said.