Competition in the European flavours arena - already tough - slammed up a gear yesterday with the news that US agribusiness giant Cargill has swallowed up its first flavour business in Europe - UK company The Duckworth Group, marking the latest purchase in a string of European acquisitions this year.
The Duckworth Group, up to now privately held by the Duckworth family, defines itself as 'the UK's largest independently owned manufacturer of flavourings and essences.' The group has five business divisions - alcohol, confectionery, dairy, savoury and soft drinks - manufacturing flavours both in liquid and powder form and flavour emulsions.
Details of the acquisition were not disclosed but with manufacturing operations dotted around the world in the UK, Africa, China and India and South Africa the purchase will clearly boost Cargill's global flavour products and services.
The move marks the next step in Cargill's strategy to build upon its existing expertise by acquiring companies that have complementary skills in the development of unique products and services, said Cargill in a statement this week.
Although the US giant currently produces flavour carriers, texturisers, emulsifiers, functional ingredients, sweeteners and other speciality ingredients, it had not yet entered the European flavour business - until this week.
But the company clearly has Europe in its sight. Not even a month ago Cargill broke the news that it had acquired the youthful €130 million French cocoa and chocolate ingredients company OCG Cacoa. The move marked another first - this time Cargill's first significant investment in chocolate manufacturing in Europe.
Added to this was the move in 2002 to purchase French starch derivatives company Cerestar from Italy's Montedison. A deal that valued Cerestar at €1.2 billion including debt and which heaved Cargill up from fourth to first place among European manufacturers of starch.
In addition, in July this year Cargill subsidiary Cargill Health & Food Technologies (H&FT) grabbed the trehalose- one of the world's most recent multi-functional food ingredients - market in Europe as the Japanese patent owner Hayashibara signed over distributor rights to the US giant.
The sum of the parts equals a clear determination by Cargill to carve a deep, lasting slot in the European, and global, ingredients market.
"A core component of Cargill's strategy is to become a world leader in integrating ingredients that play a vital role in the consumer sensory experience with foods and beverages," confirmed Robert R. Parmelee, president of Cargill Food System Design speaking this week of the flavour acquisition.
In August Cargill posted 2003 fiscal year earnings from operations at $1.036 billion, an increase of 21 per cent from $855 million a year ago. The company reported that food ingredients operations in Europe, Latin America and North America claimed a particularly strong performance, boosting the overall results.