Premier Foods added a new ingredient to its portfolio of brands yesterday by snapping up the maker of meat alternative Quorn for £172 million.
Quorn will be Premier's largest brand, joining labels such as Ambrosia custard, Branston Pickle, Cadbury Drinking Chocolate and and Typhoo Tea.
North Yorkshire- based owner Marlow Foods, whose only brand is Quorn, was sold to Premier by Montagu Private Equity.
Since its UK launch a decade ago, Quorn has become the UK's largest meat alternative brand with annual retail sales of £95 million.
It initially targeted vegetarians but has recently been boosted by the trend towards healthier eating and lower meat consumption.
Robert Schofield, chief executive of Premier Foods, which has a manufacturing base at Knighton in Staffordshire, said: "Quorn is ideally placed to benefit from the increasing demand for healthy eating and the combination with Premier should accelerate its growth."
The deal is one of Premier's first since listing on the stock market in July with a value of £527 million. It also bought brands such as Bird's Custard and Angel Delight from US giant Kraft Foods in December.
Premier is said to be one of three groups bidding to purchase Birmingham--based HP Foods, maker of HP and Lea & Perrins sauces, from French owner Danone for up to £500 million.
Marlow Foods will be operated as a standalone business, run by its existing management team, although the deal is expected to bring savings of about £4 million a year by 2008 in areas such as administration and purchasing.
No major job losses are expected among its 360 staff.