Unilever is to extend its presence within ice cream manufacture after announcing this week that it has agreed to acquire Russian ice cream company Inmarko.
The company, which already owns the Ben & Jerry's brand, claims that the purchase will further consolidate its position as the world's number one ice cream maker, while also expanding into the high-growth Russian market for the product.
If regulatory approval is obtained for the deal, Unilever said it expects the acquisition to be completed during the first half of this year.
The purchase of Inmarko for an as-yet undisclosed sum, comes as the company attempts a global shake up of its operations, leading to a potential €1.5bn worth of cost divestments in some slower performing areas like some ice cream operations.
Vindi Banga, president of Unilever's food division said the purchase of Inmarko reflected the importance of some of its ice cream brands in emerging markets.
"We will put Inmarko at the heart of our ice cream business in Russia, and build on its successful strategy, powerful portfolio, and great talent and know-how," he stated. "At the same time we will be looking together for opportunities to enrich and strengthen its competitiveness with Unilever's global scale and category expertise."
The ice-cream group, which was formed in 1991, is now the leading Russian producer for the products with annual turnover of €115m over the 2007 fiscal year, Unilever says.
It added that Inmarko brands also had a strong presence in a number of Central and Eastern European markets as well as in Kazakhstan.
Stronger demand within these markets has been increasingly important to the group, which announced last year that its Unilever's European workforce would bear the brunt of 20,000 proposed job cuts over the coming four years.
Group spokesperson Tanno Massar told DairyReporter.com in September that 10,000 to 12,000 job reductions will occur at the company's European operations. The cuts will include workforce reductions resulting from divestments of the group's operations, he added.
The divestment has so far included Boursin cheese unit, which is based in the French town of Pacy employing 150 people for the production of cream cheeses. The company has also announced 254 job cuts at the Cogesal-Miko ice cream site in St. Dizier.