Italian cheese maker Nuova Castelli is expanding in the US through the acquisition of a 75% stake in New Jersey-based Empire Specialty Cheese.

The US is among the markets to which Nuova Castelli exports its range of cheese but the company said the deal would give it “a direct presence” in the market.

Empire Specialty Cheese operates a production site in Buffalo, New York. 

Nuova Castelli indicated it would look to invest in other US dairy businesses. “The takeover of Empire Specialty Cheese will result in the creation of Castelli American Group Ltd, with a view to absorbing more US dairy concerns.”

Dairy industry executive Paul Bensanat has joined Nuova Castelli as executive chairman of the group’s new operations in the country. “The US is a reference market for the industry in terms of both distribution of products coming from Italy and locally-produced cheese. Development margins in the US are wide, with potentially high sales.”

Nuova Castelli specialises in producing and marketing Italian cheese, such as gorgonzola, Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano. The group exports 70% of its products to international markets such including the US, France, Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Poland and Russia.

Luigi Fici, Nuova Castelli’s president and CEO, said: “This is a very important economic operation for us. We have been working on it for quite some time because we believe that the US can become a key market for our group.”

The deal is the fourth acquisition completed by Nuova Castelli since it was taken over by Charterhouse Capital Partners in 2004. The business now generates an annual turnover of EUR5bn (US$5.54bn) and employs more than 1,000 people around the world, Castelli said.