Hershey is to be a shareholder in a new Fulfil Nutrition snack-bar business focusing on North America.

Yesterday, it was announced Kinder egg maker Ferrero had bought Fulfil Nutrition, the Ireland-based maker of protein bars.

Hershey had been an investor in Fulfil Nutrition since 2019, when it bought a minority stake in the Dublin-based firm.

Outside Ireland, Fulfil Nutrition counted the US among its overseas markets.

Hershey and Ferrero told Just Food the Fulfil Nutrition business in North America was not part of the transaction.

The Hershey’s and Reese’s chocolate maker has set up a new North America venture with Fulfil Nutrition founder Barry Connolly. Hershey will be a minority shareholder in the business.

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“Fulfil fits best into our growing North America snacking portfolio, where we have extended into better-for-you confection and permissible salty snacking options as well,” a Hershey spokesperson said.

The new venture will cover the US, Canada and Mexico.

There is a growing demand in the region for “high protein, BFY snacking and nutrition options,” the Hershey spokesperson added.

“Fulfil plays a strategic role in our expanding North American snacking strategy, enabling us to provide consumers with more snacking choices across better-for-you snacks to indulgent treats.”

The announcement covering Ferrero’s takeover did not disclose the terms of the deal nor any financial figures for Fulfil Nutrition.

When Hershey acquired its unspecified minority stake in Fulfil three years ago, local reports in Ireland said the bar supplier was expected to post sales of around EUR100m (US$105.5m) in 2019.

“The better-for-you snacking market segment presents a strong opportunity and Fulfil are an excellent strategic fit for the Ferrero Group as we continue to expand our overall footprint and product offerings within this,” Ferrero told Just Food.

“The UK and Ireland market remains a very interesting target, with millions of engaged consumers. Fulfil is a much-loved, authentic brand with a very strong market position in the better-for-you snacks segment.”

It added: “We look forward to working with the North American business to maintain and further build the strong brand authenticity.”

Ferrero – either through itself or a holding company owned by boss Giovanni Ferrero – has acquired a number of businesses in recent years.

Last June, Mr Ferrero’s holding company, CTH, bought the UK’s Burton’s Biscuit Company.

In 2020, through CTH, Ferrero acquired the bulk of UK business Fox’s Biscuits from 2 Sisters Food Group. The same year, the Kinder egg owner bought UK cereal bar, muesli and granola business Eat Natural.

In 2019, CTH snapped up Denmark-based snacks business Kelsen, owner of brands including Kjeldsens Butter Cookies, from Campbell Soup Co. for US$300m. In April of the same year, Ferrero struck a deal to buy a clutch of biscuit and snack brands in the US from Kellogg for US$1.3bn.

This year, Ferrero has been rocked by Europe-wide salmonella infections linked to a factory in Belgium.

More than 100 children across a host of European countries have contaminated the potentially fatal bacteria after consuming the kids’ chocolate treats, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Recalls have been initiated across Europe, as well as by respective food standards agencies in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Singapore.

From the Just Food archive, September 2019: Interview – Fulfil CEO Brian O’Sullivan on Hershey’s investment, Brexit and the Irish snack-bar firm’s ambitions