UK-based consumer goods group PZ Cussons has struck a surprise deal to buy Australian baby food business Rafferty’s Garden.

PZ Cussons has paid GBP42.2m (US$64.1m) to buy Rafferty’s Garden from Australian private-equity firm Anacacia. The business looked set to come under Heinz’s ownership until Australian regulators blocked that deal last month.

The acquisition of Rafferty’s Garden boosts PZ Cussons’ food business, which represents a tiny part of the company’s turnover.

PZ Cussons’ portfolio includes Greek olive oil and spreads brand Minerva. The company has a dairy business in Nigeria through a venture with Glanbia and said in May it was planning to launch a consumer food ingredients brand in the country. However, the bulk of PZ Cussons’ business remains in home care, personal care, beauty and electrical products.

According to data provided by PZ Cussons, Rafferty’s Garden accounts for around 40% of wet baby food sales in Australia. It has a presence in the dry and snacks segments in the country’s baby food market. PZ Cussons said Rafferty’s Garden was also “in the early stages” of developing an export business to Indonesia and Thailand.

Chief executive Alex Kanellis said the acquisition of Rafferty’s Garden marked PZ Cussons’ entry into the food sector in Asia-Pacific. He argued the company’s wider presence in the region could support the expansion of the Rafferty’s Garden business.

“PZ Cussons’ distribution in countries such as Indonesia and Thailand, together with our understanding of consumers in those markets through our leading Cussons Baby brand, will enable the geographic expansion of Rafferty’s Garden to be maximised,” Kanellis said.