Italian dairy group Granarolo has acquired 25% of European Foods, a distributor of Italian products in New Zealand.

The deal includes the option to buy an additional 26% stake of the Auckland-based company, which must be exercised within 18 months.

The transaction opens the New Zealand market for Granarolo, where it will now look to sell its range of cheese products. 

Granarolo said the market for imported Italian cheese market, of which over half is accounted for by Parmigiana and Grana Padana, is worth around EUR5m in New Zealand and EUR33m across Oceania. 

"New Zealand is a very interesting country, a market in strong growth with consumers who have high purchasing power and preference for products with Made in Italy quality," said Gianpiero Calzolari, Granarolo’s chairman.

He added the acquisition would enable Granarolo to also expand into Australia and South East Asia, countries with which New Zealand has free trade agreements.