Belgium-based private-equity firm Verlinvest and state-owned conglomerate China Resources have invested in Sweden-based dairy-free business Oatly.

Verlinvest, the fund backed by shareholders in brewing giant AB InBev, and China Resources, which has interests in rice, meat, frozen food and beer, will be shareholders in Oatly alongside the company’s existing investors and its founders.

The investment was made through a new joint venture formed by Verlinvest and China Resources earlier this year. Announcing the venture in May, China Resources said the venture would focus on “health and consumer products”.

The terms of the transaction, including the size of the stake the venture would take in Oatly, were not disclosed. Private-equity industry news portal Unquote said the Swedish-government-backed VC Industrifonden had sold part of its stake in Oatly to Verlinvest and China Resources.

When contacted by just-food, Oatly said it would not disclose the shareholdings its investors now had in the business. Officials at Verlinvest, VC Industrifonden and Spayne Lindsay, the M&A advisory firm that worked on the deal, had not responded to requests for comment from just-food at the time of writing.

In a statement, Oatly said the investment from Verlinvest and China Resources would help expand its “manufacturing footprint” in Sweden and fund the company’s push into new markets including China and the US.

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By GlobalData

“In China Resources’ and Verlinvest’s joint venture, we have found a highly experienced global-minded partner who understands this unique heritage and brings to Oatly a valuable network as well as operational expertise in key markets,” Oatly CEO Toni Petersson said.

Based in the Swedish city of Malmö, Oatly’s products are available in more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

Frédéric de Mévius, chairman of the board of Verlinvest, said: “We have been very impressed by what the team at Oatly has achieved so far in building the Swedish market leader and we are excited to join them, alongside the existing shareholders, to bring the brand, an icon of Swedish health and sustainability, to a global audience.”

Kerry Zhang, the deputy general manager of China Resources’ strategy department, said: “Oatly has built a differentiated lifestyle brand with an ethical approach which we believe will strongly appeal to the Chinese consumer. We will invest further to ensure that Oatly remains at the leading-edge of oat research, and continues to develop new innovative products for many years to come.”

Last month, Verlinvest announced it had acquired a 24.5% stake in Italian tomato products group Mutti. In October, the fund invested in Indian condiments supplier Veeba Food Services. Three months earlier, Verlinvest backed another Indian firm, yogurt and ice cream maker Drums Food.

Verlinvest’s other food interests include a stake in US condiments firm Sir Kensington’s and UK-based gluten-free group Genius Foods.

Sir Kensington’s co-founders on growth plans after investment round – interview published in September 2015