Ornua, formerly the Irish Dairy Board, has acquired the Shanghai-based manufacturer Ambrosia Dairy for an undisclosed sum.
The group also announced plans to pay a €15 million bonus to member dairy processors following the recent disposal of its majority share in the US speciality foods distribution firm DPI.
The Ambrosia acquisition provides Ornua with its first manufacturing base in China, one of the most important global dairy growth markets.
Ambrosia supplies dairy products including sour cream, yoghurt and speciality cheeses to the high-end retail and food service markets in the Shanghai region.
Ornua said the acquisition would provide Ornua with an entry point into supplying dairy ingredients to the rapidly growing Chinese food service industry with the addition of domestically produced premium cheeses complementing its existing range of Kerrygold Irish milk products.
The Ambrosia facility will include a new product development centre that will focus on developing cheese products that meet the specific tastes of the Chinese consumer.
"This acquisition is another important milestone in Ornua's growth as a global supplier of quality dairy products. We are buying an excellent dairy enterprise which allows us to significantly grow our Chinese business in one step. It provides us with a manufacturing base in China and brings on board a team with local knowledge and expertise, complementing our own existing in-market operation," said chief executive Kevin Lane.
“Ambrosia Dairy is particularly well known for the quality of its cheeses and it has been at the forefront of the development of the domestic cheese market in Shanghai,” he added.
The acquisition is the latest in a series of investments by the company, which is targeting new routes to market for Irish dairy products. The last 18 months has seen Ornua invest in acquisitions and significant capital expenditure in Africa, Germany, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the UK and the US. Last month the group opened a new Kerrygold factory in Lagos, Nigeria in a joint venture with Fareast Mercantile.
The group, which owns the Kerrygold and Dubliner Cheese brands, is Ireland’s largest exporter of butter, cheese and milk powders, trading in 110 markets, and is likely to benefit most from the opening up of Europe’s dairy trade.
Ornua also announced plans to pay a €15 million bonus to member dairy processors following the recent disposal of its stake in DPI to Arbor Investments last month. The funds will be paid in April/May and will be in addition to the normal annual cash bonus paid by the group.