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2020 M&A in the Ice Cream industry. Check out our TOP10 of the most significant acquisitions.


With 2020 now safely behind us (and may it never return!), let's take some time to review some of the major mergers & acquisitions which happened last year despite, or sometimes because of, the pandemic.


  • Date: January 2020

  • Country: USA

  • Seller: Nestle

  • Buyer: Froneri

  • Transaction amount: 4 000 million USD


Even though the move was announced at the end of 2019, the acquisition of NESTLE US Ice Cream operations was completed by FRONERI in January of this year. If you are new to the Ice Cream industry, you may wonder who FRONERI is.


FRONERI was created in 2016 through a merger between UK-based company R&R (owned by PAI Partners, a capital fund) and NESTLE's European ice cream business. In 2019, FRONERI also acquired TIP TOP in New Zealand and NESTLE's ice cream business in Israel.


By acquiring NESTLE's US business (about 1.8 billion USD yearly sales), FRONERI significantly increased its size to come close to the 5 billion USD mark of sales and become the undisputed number 2 player in the world of ice cream, surpassed only by UNILEVER. The transaction includes brands such as Haagen Dazs, Drumsticks and Dreyer's to name a few. Meanwhile, NESTLE will continue to manage its remaining business in Canada, Latin America and Asia separately. But for how long?



  • Date: January 2020

  • Country: USA

  • Seller: Century Park Capital Partners

  • Buyer: Lakeview Capital

  • Transaction amount: Undisclosed


In 2015, Century Park Capital bought Mikawaya, the company which, in the 1990s, created the concept of wrapping ice cream within a Japanese rice cake called Mochi. With the financial backing of their new owners, the company rebranded as The Mochi Ice Cream Co. and launched their Mochis in retail under the brand My/Mo.


In 2020, the Mochis stand for 2.2% of the US frozen novelty sales, with My/Mo as a solid leader holding 80% of market share. It seemed to be the right time for Century Park Capital to take advantage of their gains by selling the business to an investment fund led by Lakeview Capital, a family office from Michigan.



  • Date: March 2020

  • Country: South Korea

  • Seller: Haitai Confectionery & Food

  • Buyer: Binggrae

  • Transaction amount: 140.000 million KRW (about 128 million USD)


South Korea is one of the few markets where ice cream consumption has lost steam. In fact, between 2015 and 2019, the sales of ice cream have declined by 30% reaching a low point of 1.2 billion USD. This put pressure on key market players, such as Binggrae and Haitai, number 2 and 4 in the market respectively to find solutions to the downward spiral.


In January, Haitai Confectionery & Food created a spin-off for its ice cream business in a stand-alone company, the independence of which was short-lived when Binggrae announced in March the acquisition of all Haitai Ice Cream shares for an amount of about 128 million USD.


The deal brings a near duopoly in the South Korean market, with Lotte Group controlling 46% of the ice cream market and the new Binggrae entity adding the 12% market share from Haitai to reach 42% overall. Is this the right strategy to bring the South Korean ice cream market back to growth?



  • Date: April 2020

  • Country: USA

  • Seller: Dean Foods (bankruptcy)

  • Buyer: Dairy Farmers of America

  • Transaction amount: 433 million USD


In just a few months, 2 major US milk producers, Borden and DEAN FOODS, filed for bankruptcy. While Borden's assets were sold in July to Capital Peak Partners, a private equity firm, most of the DEAN FOODS assets were sold in April to their main competitor, DAIRY FARMERS of AMERICA. The transaction includes 44 fluid and frozen dairy facilities in the US and includes most of DEAN FOODS ice cream business. As a reminder, DEAN FOODS ice cream sales exceeded 1 billion USD in 2018, roughly 10% of the US market.



  • Date: June 2020

  • Country: Spain

  • Seller: Black Toro Capital and Farga family

  • Buyer: Cheyne Capital

  • Transaction amount: Undisclosed


Back in April 2017, the FARGA family, owner of FARGGI, the leading Catalan ice cream producer, joined forces with BLACK TORO CAPITAL to take over LA MENORQUINA, leader of the ice cream sales in the Horeca segment in Spain. As a result, LACREM, the new company, would become the number 1 ice cream company in Spain (in volumes).


Was this takeover too big to handle? 3 years later, while declining volumes and with COVID dramatically impacting the Horeca segment, the FARGA family, together with BLACK TORO CAPITAL, decided in June to sell 97.5% of the company to CHEYNE CAPITAL, a hedge fund which had become a minority shareholder in the past couple of years by buying back LACREM's debt. The remaining 2.5% will remain in the hands of the family, who also regained control of the 20 FARGI stores and parlours as part of the deal.


The sales of the new entity are now planned at 80 million EUR, far from the 140 million it boasted in 2017. Is it the beginning of a new era for Farggi and La Menorquina?



  • Date: June 2020

  • Country: Chile

  • Seller: Unilever

  • Buyer: Carozzi

  • Transaction amount: 20.8 million USD


In 2013, UNILEVER took over the Melevi ice cream plant from the HERRERO family. This move allowed the British/Dutch food multinational to get its first ice cream facility in Chile where it already owned the Bresler brand which had been co-manufactured locally for years.


7 years later, UNILEVER came to the conclusion that conditions were not being met to "develop a sustainable and competitive business" and in June sold their Chilean ice cream business to the food group CAROZZI. UNILEVER's market share never exceeded 15%, far from arch-rival Nestlé, number 1 in Chile with more than 50% of the market.


While it is clearly not a sign of UNILEVER divesting from ice cream worldwide (ice cream sales represent 13% of UNILEVER's worldwide turnover as of 2019), it still shows that the giant multinational will focus on geographies where they can reach number 1 status (or a strong number 2).


The new owner, CAROZZI, is a family-owned food group with facilities in Chile, Argentina and Peru. With the acquisition of UNILEVER ice cream in Chile, they add another food category to their expanding portfolio. Within the agreement, they get full ownership of the Bresler and Melevi brands in addition to a license for distributing Magnum, Vienetta, Calippo and other UNILEVER worldwide brands in Chile.



  • Date: July 2020

  • Country: USA

  • Seller: Gibson family

  • Buyer: HumanCo

  • Transaction amount: Undisclosed


Oregon-based Coconut Bliss company was founded in 2005 and became a pioneer in developing plant-based ice cream across the US and Canada. The brand is vegan, organic, non-GMO and gluten-free and offers a wide portfolio of 25 SKUs, including tubs, sticks and sandwiches.


Ethics and sustainability are also at the core of Coconut Bliss' project, focusing on renewable resources, responsible and local sourcing of ingredients, recyclable packaging (their tub liner is made from plant-based biopolymer) and renewable energy.


No wonder it was a perfect match for HumanCo, a holding company created by Jason KARP, whose own history of dealing with an autoimmune disease made him look for more natural and nutritionally-better sources of food. His new investment company, which he sees as a holding to develop companies long-term, is investing in brands promoting health and sustainability. The holding took a majority stake in Coconut Bliss in July this year. Who will be next?



  • Date: October 2020

  • Country: New Zealand

  • Seller: Synlait Milk

  • Buyer: Talley's

  • Transaction amount: Undisclosed


After Tip Top, the NZ market leader sold in 2019 by Fonterra to Froneri, it is now DEEP SOUTH's turn to transfer ownership. The 42 year old brand, which was bought by Dairyworks in 2016, was not part of SYNLAIT MILK's plans, which acquired Dairyworks earlier this year for its cheese and yogurt business.


DEEP SOUTH, a significant player in the NZ premium ice cream segment (even though its total ice cream market share does not exceed 1.5%) owns a factory in Christchurch (South Island).


The new owner, TALLEY'S, is a major New Zealand food company, better know for its seafood and frozen vegetables businesses. TALLEY'S already owns the Crème de la Crème and Motueka Creamery ice cream brands. Will the DEEP SOUTH acquisition be enough to reach a critical size in a market dominated by UNILEVER and FRONERI?



  • Date: December 2020

  • Country: Worldwide

  • Seller: Dunkin' Brands (listed company)

  • Buyer: Inspire Brands

  • Transaction amount: 11 300 million USD


By far the biggest transaction involving Ice Cream in 2020, the takeover of Dunkin' Brands, owner of Baskin Robbins, was completed in December, just 2 months after being announced. While the overall transaction includes the DUNKIN brand and stores, let's focus on BASKIN ROBBINS for this article:


  • BR is the world's largest chain of ice cream specialty stores

  • More than 7500 ice cream parlours in 50 countries (all under franchise)!

  • About 2 billion USD revenues in 2019, of which more than 2/3rd originated out of the US.

  • The widest range of ice cream flavours, with the famous "31" selected out of a portfolio of more than 1000 recipes!


While BR used to make its own ice cream, the production was fully outsourced to Dean Foods (now part of DFA) in the USA in the early 2000s.


The new owner, INSPIRE BRANDS, is adding DUNKIN and BASKIN ROBBINS to its roaster of US restaurant chains, with brands such as Arbys, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic or Jimmy John's, and doing so becomes the 2nd largest restaurant chain in the US with sales in excess of 24 billion USD. Will they be able to build a new momentum for growth at BASKIN ROBBINS?



  • Date: In progress

  • Country: Croatia

  • Seller: Fortenova (former Agrokor)

  • Expected Buyer: Nomad Foods

  • Transaction amount: around 730 million USD


Our last pick of the day remains under negotiation. In fact, several buyers have been interested in taking over the frozen food assets of the former AGROKOR holding which went bankrupt in 2018. On January 11th, 2021, FORTENOVA, the newly formed company which took over the AGROKOR assets, announced it had entered exclusive talks with NOMAD FOODS for the sale of FRIKOM and LEDO ice cream companies.


With combined sales over 400 million EUR (roughly 500 million USD), Croatia-based LEDO and Serbia-based FRIKOM enjoy comfortable leadership positions in the ex-Yugoslavian markets, leading the way in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. LEDO, benefiting from free access to the EU market, is exporting in more than 20 countries with Hungary and Slovenia as their main export markets.


NOMAD FOODS, a holding company listed on both the London and New York stock exchange, already owns Iglo and Findus. The acquisition would further reinforce its frozen food business position in Europe, creating synergies and complementing existing portfolios. Is this an opportunity for LEDO to further build on their recent successes and extend internationally?



Did we miss anything big? Would you like to share further insights with us? Do not hesitate to get in touch with us through our emails below. And to make sure you do get updated with the latest news in the ice cream industry, sign up to our monthly newsletter here.


ABOUT INNODELICE

Founded by former executives in the Ice Cream industry, INNODELICE aims to create a worldwide ecosystem of solutions within the frozen dessert industry. Thanks to the relationships fostered by INNODELICE, manufacturers, brands, importers, distributors and suppliers can discover, buy and sell solutions to GROW their business. These solutions include co-manufactured and branded products as well as innovative and competitive ingredients, packaging and services. Our collaboration model generates lower costs and fewer risks for our participating partners while optimising their time to market. To learn more about INNODELICE, contact Nicolas MARIE (nicolas.marie@innodelice.com), Andrea MONTREUIL (andrea.montreuil@innodelice.com) or visit www.innodelice.com.

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