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Japanese group Ezaki Glico, the owner of the Pocky confectionery brand, has struck a deal to buy US chocolate maker Tcho Ventures.

Ezaki Glico has bought the California-based company from shareholders including Emil Capital Partners, which owned a majority stake in the business.

Tcho Ventures, set up in 2005, sells its range of products at major US retailers including Walmart and Ahold Delhaize’s Stop & Shop, according to the chocolate supplier’s website.

The company’s product portfolio includes bars, baking chocolate and gift items.

The acquisition, for which financial details were not disclosed, is Ezaki Glico’s first in the US. It has a subsidiary, Ezaki Glico USA Corp., which markets brands including Pocky and and Pretz.

The US chocolate market is an industry where, a number of players have recently said, sales have come under pressure.

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In a statement announcing the deal, Ezaki Glico cited Euromonior data that it said showed US$18.9bn worth of chocolate is sold in the US, with the market growing at an annual rate of 2%.

Ezaki Glico added: “Tcho, a premium craft chocolate company known for its superior quality chocolate, has earned strong brand recognition in the US market and particularly amongst millennials, the generation with the highest purchase intent. The overall market in the premium chocolate category is expecting strong continued growth, and by acquiring Tcho and entering this market, Ezaki Glico aims to enhance its chocolate business.”

In a separate statement, the US firm said the sale of the company “comes at a perfect moment in both Tcho’s development and in the chocolate industry’s evolution”.

Tcho said: “The American consumer base is awakening to the idea of chocolate being more than candy and is demanding a more sophisticated product. Similar to what is seen in coffee, wine, beer and cheese, the diversity of chocolate offerings has exploded. In recent years TCHO has continued to innovate, launching new flavors and formats at a regular cadence which has helped the company increase its distribution throughout the US, in some of the country’s largest retailers and foodservice distributors.”

CEO Marcel Bens added: “The acquisition of our product by Ezaki Glico will give us an even stronger foothold in the market. We’re thrilled to be joining their strong product portfolio, which will undoubtedly help catapult Tcho to the next level.”

In the 12 months to the end of March 2017, Ezaki Glico’s most-recent financial year, the company generated net sales of JPY353.22bn (US$3.29bn), up from JPY338.44bn a year earlier.

The group, which sells products including dairy and ice cream alongside confectionery, booked net income attributable to owners of the parent of JPY18.15bn, compared to JPY13.9bn the previous year.

Confectionery accounted for more than a third of Ezaki Glico’s net sales, with the division reporting net sales of JPY121.12bn, flat year-on-year.