The Irish Dairy Board, best known for its Kerrygold brand of dairy products and ingredients, has acquired a majority shareholding in the Meadow Cheese Group, a leading cheese ingredient supplier to the UK prepared convenience foods sector. The price paid was not disclosed.
Meadow has grown rapidly since its creation in 1993, and last year posted sales of £22.5 million (€33m). It works in partnership with leading UK prepared convenience foods manufacturers providing customised cheese ingredient solutions, in application ready format, for a range of end uses. These include ready meals, pizzas, sandwiches, breads, dips and dairy based desserts.
Meadow's extensive cheese product portfolio includes a diverse range of chilled and Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) blends, shred types and pack sizes; a wide selection of heat-treated functionally tailored cheese ingredients, and dairy dessert mixes. The major convenience foods manufacturers are increasingly looking to outsource ingredient preparation as the sector develops, and IDB said that Meadow was well positioned to service this requirement.
The prepared convenience foods sector is one of the fastest growing segments in the EU food market, with the UK at the forefront of this expansion. This is driven by demographic and lifestyle changes resulting in fewer formal meal occasions in the home, a reduction in the time spent on meal preparation and increased experimentation in eating habits. Cheese is a particularly popular food ingredient across a wide range of such products, which are among the main drivers of EU cheese consumption growth.
Meadow has also invested heavily in technical innovation allowing food manufacturers to work with it on new cheese functionality and flavour delivery concepts.
The Irish Dairy Board has already established a leading presence in this cheese market sector through its Staffordshire-based Adams Food Ingredients subsidiary. Acquisition of the Meadow Cheese operation will substantially strengthen the Board's strategic presence in this key growth sector and will offer increased market channel access for Irish cheese, it said in a statement.
The IDB is a leading supplier to the UK retail and food service sectors through its Kerrygold Company and North Downs Dairy operations. Group turnover in the UK was around €460 million in 2002. The UK is a key component of the IDB market development strategy with a particular focus on cheese.