The Norwegian Dairy Cooperative (TINE) has signed a sales and purchase agreement for the acquisition of Ilchester Cheese Company.

Majority shareholder Inflexion Private Equity Partners and the company's management endorsed the deal, which was signed on 3 November.

The acquisition forms part of TINE's strategy to develop in selected international markets selling "high quality specialty cheeses".

TINE is represented in the UK market through Norseland and its Jarlsberg, Snøfrisk and SkiQueen brands.

"TINE's acquisition of Ilchester Cheese Company highlights our commitment to the international strategy we envision: to be the preeminent specialty cheese brand leader in selected international markets," said John Sullivan, president and CEO of Norseland. "Ilchester's unique, first quality cheese blends, its prestigious name and well-established reputation for superior innovation is a perfect fit for our current portfolio."

Ilchester Cheese Company is one of the leading producers of blended cheese in the UK. The company has a broad range of added value cheeses in a variety of formats, exporting to 25 countries.

Turnover of Ilchester Cheese Company in 2007 was GBP25m (US$40.3m), of which international markets constitute 25%.