UK dairy co-op First Milk has entered the sports nutrition sector with the acquisition of local firm CNP Professional.

The deal, signed for an undisclosed sum, sees First Milk purchase what its chairman Bill Mustoe called “a strong company in a rapidly-growing sector”.

CNP Professional sells products like energy bars and protein powders through retailers including Holland & Barrett. It is also the official supplier to sports teams including British Cycling, the official association for the sport in the country.

Mustoe said First Milk’s interest in functional foods had increased in the wake of the co-op’s venture to manufacture whey protein with New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra.

“That experience and the growth projections on functional foods sharpened our interest, and since last summer we have looked at a number of opportunities that would add value to our existing business,” Mustoe said.

“We were particularly attracted to the sports nutrition sector where the market in Britain has more than doubled in the last five years, with this strong growth predicted to be maintained over the next five years. When you dig into the main reasons for this growth, it is clear that more and more people are focusing on a healthy lifestyle, plus there is increasing recognition of the benefits of sports nutrition.”

He added: “Within the sports nutrition sector, CNP Professional stood out as the company that was the best fit for us due to its sector credibility, focused product range, and the fact that it appeals to both mainstream and dedicated sports nutrition users. Clearly, the London Olympics that start in less than 90 days also provides us with a sales opportunity for sports nutrition products.”