Besana, Importaco tie-up creates ‘European leader’ in dried fruit & nuts

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: iStock/Droits d'auteur tashka2000
Pic: iStock/Droits d'auteur tashka2000

Related tags Nuts Snacks Mergers and acquisitions Dried fruit

Spanish food company Importaco is taking a controlling stake in Italian manufacturer Besana in a merger that will create ‘the European leader in nuts, dried fruit and seeds’.

Importaco is buying 51% of family-owned Besana for an undisclosed sum. The agreement will strengthen the enlarged company’s presence in natural food products, reinforce its competitive position as ‘the leader’ in European nuts and dried fruit, and consolidate its international reach.

The combined operation will have a presence in Spain, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Germany, France, Poland and Scandinavia.

Besana and Importaco will initially continue to operate independently. However, the two companies will ‘move steadily towards integration’.

“This merger is a result of the synergies associated with our expertise in nuts, responsible sourcing, and the complementary network of factories. All these synergies will create opportunities for our markets,”​ a spokesperson from Besana told FoodNavigator.

“Our network of factories will offer synergies to both companies due to the proximity to markets in which we are present. We expect economies of scale across all areas of production, including sourcing, processing and distribution. As the integration moves forward, more synergies (sales and procurement) will come to the fore with increased specialisation and broader product offering to a larger customer base.”

Toño Pons, Importaco President, will be the Chairman of the new group following the integration. The Besana-Calcagni family will belong to the group leadership team: Riccardo Calcagni has been confirmed as Chief Executive Officer and Pino Calcagni as Honorary President.

"Through this transaction, we are consolidating our sustainable growth project based on quality and innovation and leveraging our internationalisation and specialisation in natural products and healthy foodstuffs,"​ said Importaco’s Pons.

"We are creating a strong group with a solid competitive position, both in Spain and in other European markets, with a high growth potential,"​ he added.

Complementary portfolio and skill set

With annual sales of €584.5m and a profit of €22.4m, Importaco specialises in the nuts and natural drinks business. It distributes to the retail segment in the Spanish market as a Mercadona supplier. It also operates in the agro-food ingredients markets, and in the foodservice sector for the hotels and caterers.

Meanwhile, Besana is focused on nuts, dried fruit and seeds. The company mainly generates an annual turnover of €185m and distributes to the retail segment and has a strong presence in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Scandinavian and Eastern European countries, as well as Italy.

The enlarged company believes it will be able to build on these sales figures for future growth, although specific targets have not yet been detailed. "We must develop these synergies to establish our joint future target. We are currently focusing on the integration. We are just starting with the partnership and will share our development plan in the near future,"​ the spokesperson revealed. 

The combined company also expects to benefit from its complementary skill set and knowledge base with regards to production and procurement.

In terms of sourcing, the Besana representative said the ‘biggest challenge’ facing the nut sector is ‘increasing knowledge about the product’ among suppliers to ensure quality, sustainability and food safety.

“The combination of a professional team and their skill set will help us to face future challenges in the nuts sector.

“Our combined competitive edge and in-depth knowledge of all the phases of the value chain enhances advantages in differentiation, competitiveness and procurement. Additionally, the increased number of specialised factories, increased volume of purchases, and number of suppliers will also benefit our supply chain and help with any future procurement issues.”

Innovation and R&D: ‘Consumption habits are changing a lot’

The larger group will also be able to leverage its respective strengths in R&D as it responds to trends in the nuts and healthy snacking sector.

“Importaco’s current research projects focus on food safety and healthy eating,”​ the spokesperson noted.

Some of the group’s ongoing R&D projects include: the implementation of controls for emerging risks such as viruses and noroviruses and the development of new analysis techniques for the control of allergens, such as soya. Responding to clean label trends (‘we are conducting research into how to cut down additives in our products’) and salt reduction by ‘modifying nut texture’ are also on the agenda.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson continued, Besana has a ‘large portfolio of innovative products’, with more than 150 SKUs and new products launched each year, as well as packaging solutions for different types of consumption.

“Both companies are focused on quality and innovation.”

The companies’ innovation pipelines leverage tools like neurological analysis to understand consumer perception and innovation is closely aligned with consumer trends. So what does Importaco see shaping the future of snacking?

“The consumer is more focused on price due to the economic situation and wellbeing due to its relationship with health… Consumption habits are changing a lot.”

COVID-19 has had a big impact on the markets in which the companies operate. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are choosing health and wellbeing. As a result, at Importaco, we have seen nut demand rise.

“We are responding to the pandemic with extensive plans in food safety and quality which allow us to supply high-quality, healthy products. For instance, Importaco has a Technological Centre with laboratories that have procedures and techniques to test aflatoxins certified in ISO 17025 in order to ensure the reliability of the results and our technical skills.

“Through this merger we are demonstrating our commitment to healthy food, quality and sustainability.”

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