Swiss food manufacturer Nestlé said it is on the lookout to buy producers of ‘health-enhancing’ products, notably in the US.

CEO Peter Brabeck commented: “Our first priority in acquisitions is clearly nutrition, but we are open to looking at both food and confectionery, but only in high-value-added categories.”

The company has been gradually building up its nutrition business by adding brands such as the Powerbar sports bars and developing its own functional foods. For example, the group has been working on yoghurts with bacteria that are beneficial to digestion. The company’s nutrition division reports annual sales in the region of SFr5bn (US$3.33bn) and is growing faster than the company overall, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Brabeck indicated that the US remains its growth market of choice, as it offers strong population growth and high levels of disposable income. The relative flexibility of the US business landscape is also appealing. Brabeck commented: “It took us just ten months to realise our targeted synergies with Ralston [Purina – the pet food maker it acquired last year],” he said. “If Ralston Purina had been in Europe, we wouldn’t have done the acquisition.”

Brabeck also took the opportunity to downplay the possibility that Nestlé will acquire the Adams gum unit put on the market by US pharmaceuticals company Pfizer. He questioned whether the Adams brands would fit with Nestlé’s strategy of focusing on the wellness segment.