French agri-food investor Unigrains has acquired a stake in French cooking-oil brand Huilerie Cauvin, becoming its first capital investor.

Huilerie Cauvin, which specialises in vegetable oils, hopes to strengthen its brand in France and target new markets including the US and the Middle East with the help of the investment.

Unigrains has become a minority shareholder in the family-owned business, for an undisclosed sum. It said Huilerie Cauvin “stands out for the quality of its products and its premium positioning”.

The investor told Just Food the market for premium French products in North America is growing.

A spokesperson said: “The retail market for branded specialty oils in North America is quite deep compared to France and shows dynamic growth trends.

“Additionally, high-quality French products appeal to American consumers and we believe there is room for growth.”

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Production line: The Huilerie Cauvin factory near Montpellier

The Middle East market is also a “main focus” for the brand, the spokesperson said.

“During recent professional trade fairs, Cauvin received clear and strong signs of interest from Middle East clients for its branded specialty oils,” the spokesperson added. “We anticipate that Cauvin will take a more opportunistic approach in this market.”

Huilerie Cauvin, based in Saint-Gilles du Gard, south-eastern France, employs around 50 people and has annual sales of EUR50m (US$49m).

Domestically, the investor hopes to grow the brand in retail as well as in hospitality and cosmetics.

“With regards to retail, the objective is to increase market share for the Cauvin brand (notably through continued product innovation) while maintaining margins in a period of growing purchasing prices,” the spokesperson said.

“As for B2B channels, the objective is to continue the dynamic growth of the past years, notably in hotels-restaurants-catering, agri-food industrial clients and in cosmetics. Cauvin benefits from a state-of-the-art, highly flexible production facility that will be useful in this endeavor.”

Huilerie Cauvin president Christian Port said: “With Unigrains, in the context of this first opening our capital, we have found a financial and strategic partner who is both an expert in the agri-food industry and comprehensive of the complexities of a family-owned company.

“It is together and on the basis of our common values that we will implement this ambitious development plan for Cauvin in France and internationally.”

Géraldine Salomon, Unigrains investment manager, said: “In a competitive market, Cauvin stands out for the quality of its products and its premium positioning, notably with large food retailers and in the organic segment.

“Alongside Christian Port, the Filhol family, and their teams, Unigrains will bring its sector expertise and its networks in France and abroad in service of this growth project.”