Based in northern Italy, Nutrafood manufactures products using nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts, pecans and pistachios. It has two application laboratories, one for vegetable milks and one for creamy fillings and spreads.
The deal will allow Doehler to meet current customer demand for nut-based products, particularly for liquid applications such as dairy drink alternatives, head of cereal and dairy, René Krebs said.
Globally, Krebs predicted growth for almonds and hazelnuts to increase the most but said all will see a rise, even “the hidden stars” such as tiger nuts (which are technically tubers and not nuts) that are traditionally popular in Spain but remain relatively unknown elsewhere in Europe.
“Doehler comes from a fruit background but we see some strong growth coming out of non-fruit plant-based nutrition. The nut category was the missing piece in our raw materials, and we wanted access to industrial forms of nuts such as pastes and ingredients.”
“We served this market before but now we can serve it even better, and the synergy between Nutrafood and Doehler is very strong,” he added.
Nutrafood’s technical know-how in the areas of taste, mouthfeel and appearance as well as its multi-purpose processing line were “part of the rationale” behind the buy-out, Krebs said.
“Nuts are a bit of an art," he told FoodNavigator. "Physically, to press a nut is very simple. But when you need to meet the taste, viscosity and colour demands of the finished product, and when you combine them with other ingredients, it really calls for expertise. We now have that expertise together with [Nutrafood].”
Nutrafood’s facility also allows for complete separation of certain potential allergens, such as peanuts, removing the possibility of cross-contamination.
The ingredients produced in the facility will be available globally and tailored to local taste preferences, Krebs said.
“The US has lots of milk alternatives using nuts such as almonds. The only difference between the sister products in Europe is the positioning. I would say Europeans like a less liquid and more fully-flavoured, indulgent product. In America, they are very sensible [regarding] the nutritional value.”
It did not disclose financial details of the deal nor the percentage stake it acquired in Nutrafood.
Asked whether there would be any restructuring or job losses following the deal, Krebs said: “We would like to preserve the strengths of Nutrafood and combine them with the strengths of Doehler, we are not a typical M&A company that buys and integrates.”
“This will serve today’s need but our ambition is to grow with the market and even out-perform the market growth. This [acquisition] is one of the enablers but if we need to be even faster, we will not shy away from expanding further.”
Darmstadt-headquartered Doehler’s portfolio of ingredients includes natural flavours and colours, pulses & cereal ingredients and dairy and plant-based ingredients.