Wessanen said deal would strengthen its R&D and production to help grow its existing business

Wessanen said deal would strengthen its R&D and production to help grow its existing business

Dutch food group Wessanen is to acquire Italian dairy-free drinks maker Abafoods for EUR52m (US$65.1m).

Abafoods owns the Isola Bio brand and generated net sales of EUR27m in 2013. This year, net sales are expected to hit EUR39m, with EBITDA at EUR6m, which Wessanen described as "substantial" increases on the year before. The company said it was not disclosing Abafoods' net earnings.

Wessanen CEO Christophe Barnouin said the deal was "a major step in the execution of our strategy".

Barnouin said: "Abafoods unique expertise in dairy alternatives will strengthen our R&D and production capabilities to fuel the growth of our brands in Europe, as well as Isola Bio, in this core category. It also gives us critical mass in Italy - a large and growing organic market in Europe."

Wessanen described Isola Bio as "the leading brand in vegetal drinks in Italian health food stores". It is also exported to France and Eastern Europe.

The two companies already work together. Abafoods manufactures some of Wessanen's Bjorg and Bonneterre non-soy cereal drinks at its plant in Badia Polesine in Italy.

Reflecting on the deal, which is expected to close next month, Abafoods president Almut Steinhuisen said: "At Abafoods, we have a rich and successful history in developing organic plant-based drinks based on almond, rice, soy and various cereals. Our brands, products and philosophy are complementary to these of Wessanen."