Australian gelato maker Bon Appetit has acquired the brands, customer base and stores of Victoria-based ice cream business Dairy Bell. 

The Dairy Bell business was scheduled to cease production and close its two facilities last week. Production will be transferred to Bon Appetit's own facility and the closure of the two manufacturing sites will continue as planned, Bon Appetit MD Lou Da Lozzo told just-food today (2 March). 

Dairy Bell sells branded products into independent stores and foodservice outlets primarily in Victoria. Da Lozzo said early indications are many of Dairy Bell's existing customers will "remain loyal" and continue to stock the brand.  

The Dairy Bell business was established in the 1970s but Da Lozzo said the brand had "lost a little ground over the years". In particular, he noted Dairy Bell lost its presence in the large supermarkets to private-label competitors.

The Bon Appetit MD anticipates the Dairy Bell brand will return to growth under its new management. "We would expect Dairy Bell to grow in tandem with the gelato business, which has been expanding steadily. [Dairy Bell could] maybe [grow] a little faster as there is more awareness around ice cream in Australia." 

Bon Appetit hopes to leverage its existing distribution channels and sell Dairy Bell into these areas, expanding its regional reach in Australia. 

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In addition, Bon Appetit intends to expand Dairy Bell's product line-up, Da Lozzo said. "We are interested in the Dairy Bell branding and will generally keep most of their brands going. We will also expand with new products that we have been developing for some time now." 

Bon Appetit has been developing ice cream products it was planning to launch under its own new brand. Through its acquisition of Dairy Bell it will be able to enter the category with a "stronger brand" identity. 

Da Lozzo suggested under Bon Appetit the Dairy Bell brand could move back into national supermarket chains like Woolworths or Coles. However, he stressed that could only happen "if they would take the brand" and the company would not consider producing private-label ice cream.