Colombia’s Grupo Nacional de Chocolates has completed its acquisition of Spanish Ebro Puleva’s Costa Rican cookie business Pozuelo SA for an undisclosed sum, just-food has learnt.

In a statement, Grupo Nacional said the acquisition would enable it to expand its business in Central America, giving it 32% of the cookie market and sharply expanding its distribution network.

“With this acquisition, Grupo Nacional strengthens its presence in Central America, a key region for the development of its [business] markets,” Grupo Nacional said.

Ebro Puleva sold Pozuelo as part of a bid to exit the Central and South American food markets.

Medellin, Colombia-based Grupo Nacional said Pozuelo, combined with its Noel cookie franchise, would give it a 32% market share in Central America. The merged cookie businesses will operate three factories producing 182m tonnes of cookies per year. It will deliver annual sales of about US$250m, the company added.

Pozuelo, of San Jose, Costa Rica, markets brands such as Chiky, Pozuelo and Cremas Y Mantequilla. It controls 28% of Central America’s cookie market and has a dominant position in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. It also has a strong presence in El Salvador, Panama and Honduras.

Pozuelo’s distribution network, which spans 16 countries with 76,000 points of sale, will allow Grupo Nacional to strengthen its brands and operating infrastructure in the region, the US, Mexico and the Caribbean.

In 2005, Pozuelo’s sales totalled $61.7m. The company’s Costa Rican plant makes 27,000 tonnes a year of cookies, wafers and chocolates, among other products.

Grupo Nacional employs nearly 3,000 people and is owned by Colombian conglomerate Grupo Empresarial Antioqueno (Gea).