UK-based confectioner Zetar has snapped up upmarket Irish chocolate maker Lir Chocolates for up to EUR8m (US$11.5m).

Zetar, which makes a range of private-label confectionery and snacks, said the deal would boost its presence in the "growing premium indulgent" segment of the chocolate category.

The acquisition also includes the use of the Baileys cream liqueur brand in Ireland, the UK and northern Europe.

"The Lir brand is rapidly establishing itself on the shelves of Irish and UK retailers and, more recently, under licence it has developed a range of high-quality Baileys adult chocolate confectionery," Zetar chief executive Ian Blackburn said.

Lir, set up in 1987, is based in Navan, north of Dublin and produces a range of luxury boxed chocolates under its namesake and Baileys brands, as well as supermarket own-labels.

Lir's founders, Connie Doody and Senator Mary White, as well as the company's MD and commercial director will remain with the firm.

Zetar's management believes Lir's "strong Irish heritage" will help the company build a presence in the US.

Blackburn and his team also hope the Baileys agreement in northern Europe will give Zetar the chance to sell more of its chocolate portfolio in the region.

Zetar has agreed to pay EUR3.3m for Lir in cash and shares; a further EUR4.7m will be paid depending on the company's financial performance between and 2011.