Finland-based food group Raisio has bought UK-based Big Bear Group, owner of brands like Sugar Puffs cereal, for EUR95.3m (US$130m).

The acquisition, Raisio said today (4 January), supports its growth strategy to become “the leading provider of healthy snacks in Europe”. A spokesperson for the firm told just-food on Monday that the company has been “monitoring possible acquisitions” as part of this strategy.

The acquisition of Big Bear will allow Raisio to gain a stronger foothold in the branded snack and breakfast markets in the UK and Western Europe, as well as strengthen the company’s position in the UK confectionery market. Big Bear owns the Fox‘s confectionery brand.

The UK will become the largest market area for Raisio’s food business with EUR140-150m annual net sales. Raisio is already present in the UK snack market. It purchased Glisten in a EUR22.8m deal early last year in a move the UK group’s chairman hailed as a “win-win” for both businesses.

Raisio’s CEO Matti Rihko said of today’s acquisition: “With the acquisition of Big Bear Group, Raisio will strengthen its footprint in the markets in Great Britain and Western Europe, and the company’s brand business is growing as planned. Big Bear sales is all branded, and it has a very strong market position in interesting and suitable sized categories. Big Bear complements extremely well the earlier acquisition of Glisten and brings the necessary critical mass for the future.”

Rihko added that Raisio’s growth is proceeding “according to plan” and that the company will continue to be an active player in the acquisition market.

Big Bear was founded in 2003 and owns the brands Honey Monster, Honey Waffles and Sugar Puffs. In the financial year ended to the end of August 2010, Big Bear’s net sales were EUR65.1m and EBITDA EUR13.6m.

Big Bear will be integrated into Raisio’s Western European brand operations from today. The company’s result will be reported as part of Raisio’s brands division from the first quarter of this year.