Plum Baby was founded in 2006

Plum Baby was founded in 2006

The new owner of Plum Baby plans to boost the UK organic baby food business' retail listings.

Darwin Private Equity, which yesterday (1 June) announced it had become Plum Baby's sole shareholder after a GBP10m (US$14.7m) takeover, will seek to grow the firm's customer base.

Jonathan Kaye, a partner at Darwin, said Plum sells into Sainsbury's and was "very strong in Waitrose" but needed to improve its business with Tesco.

"It's definitely less strong in Tesco," Kaye said. "Tesco has over 30% of the baby-food market and we need to put more focus on that."

Kaye hinted that the private-equity firm could look to open new markets for Plum in Europe but insisted the UK was the new owner's priority.

"We've done initial due diligence in a couple of European countries ... but it's not at the top of the list," Kaye said.

The acquisition of Plum is the latest in a series of recent private-equity deals in the food sector that suggest financial players have revived their interest in the industry.

Last month, Warburg Pincus bought UK discount retailer Poundland and Langholm Capital backed an MBO at herbs supplier Barts Spices.

Meanwhile, there is rumoured private-equity interest in a clutch of businesses on the continent - Unilever's Italian frozen food business, John West tuna owner MWBrands and Spanish baker Panrico.

Kaye said Darwin, which also owns sports nutrition business Maximuscle, was eyeing further acquisitions in the food sector.

"It's a core sector for us at Darwin. We like the niche areas of food," Kaye said, hinting that the private-equity firm has "a couple of food deals in the pipeline".

He refused to be drawn on specific targets and insisted that any potential acquisitions were not guaranteed to come off.