Dairy Crest, the largest dairy products group in the UK, is thought to be preparing to buy the St Ivel spreads business put up for sale by the Uniq group. The deal, which is rumoured to be worth around £50-60 million (€79-95m), would lift Dairy Crest to the level of UK market leader Unilever.
St Ivel owns the rights to the Utterly Butterly, Vitalite, Gold and Golden Churn spreads, and the addition of these to Dairy Crest's existing Clover business would give the company a portfolio to rival that of Unilever, which owns brands such as Flora, Stork and Olivio.
Uniq has been streamlining its business over the last few years to concentrate on its new focus of prepared foods, and this has meant the sale of most of its dairy and spreads operations, once the core of the company. Just last month the group sold the St Ivel Shape yoghurt business to French group Danone, and dairy Crest itself bought Uniq's milk and cheese business (the former Unigate unit) for £250 million in 2000..
Although neither Dairy Crest nor Uniq would comment on the sale rumours, press reports suggest that the British group is the only bidder for the spreads, and that it is simply a matter of agreeing a price before the deal is done.