A private equity firm has bought into UK food group Symington’s, a maker of products sold under the Ainsley Harriott name.

Hermes Private Equity struck a deal said to be worth GBP40m (US$79.8m) with the current management of Symington’s, who had bought the business from another private equity firm, Gresham, a year ago.

David Salkeld, a former executive at Grampian Country Food Group and Arla Foods, has led the move.

When contacted by just-food this morning (18 September), Salkeld refused to be drawn on the financial details surrounding the deal. However, he said investing into Symington’s represented “a unique opportunity”.

Salkeld said: “The business has got significant potential for growth and it’s got a unique product in ambient foods, which is quite an attractive market to be in.”

Symington’s sells a range of products, including foods bearing the name of UK celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott.

Salkeld said the new management team would look to “double” the company’s branded sales, which at present generate 30% of its revenue.

He acknowledged that rising commodity costs have created a “challenging” environment but added: “Prices have risen but you are able over time to get those costs recovered. The issue is how to add value; and we have the ability to do that.

“Inflation is coming through in food and retailers are recognizing that. It’s challenging but not undeliverable.”