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Overseas-owned companies make up even greater share of the UK food sector

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Overseas-owned companies make up even greater share of the UK food sector

Overseas-owned companies make up even greater share of the UK food sector

Overseas-owned companies are making up an even greater share of the UK food sector, accounting for nearly half (47%) of the turnover of the UK’s leading food companies* up from 44% last year, our research shows.

Overseas owned companies now represent £14.9bn of the £31.5bn turnover of the UK’s Top 30 food companies**.

The increased ownership of the UK food industry by foreign-owned companies can be partly attributed to a rush of M&A deals targeting UK food manufacturers over the last decade.

Overseas companies often view UK food companies as undervalued compared to the valuations that they can achieve on the stock market. The UK food industry is often held in high regard for its advanced approach to food development, branding and high quality processes.

Along with the current weak value of sterling, these factors have made UK food companies an attractive target for overseas companies looking to enter the UK’s food market.

6 of the UK’s Top 30 “Big Food” companies have US owners such as Kellogg, Mars and Mondelez. Three foreign-owned companies have owners from the Republic of Ireland, namely Greencore, Glanbia and Kerry Foods.

Our previous research found that M&A deals involving UK food companies increased fivefold to £5.8bn in 2017/18***, up from just £645m the previous year. Examples in recent years include:

  • Reckitt Benckiser’s food business was bought by US headquartered McCormick & Co, a Fortune 1000 company, for £3.2bn in August 2017

  • Weetabix was sold by China’s Bright Food Group to US-based Post Holdings, for $1.4bn in July 2017

  • Unilever’s spreads business, which includes Flora, was sold to US buyout fund KKR for $8bn in December 2017 (expected to complete mid 2018).

Perhaps the most controversial deal in the last few years was the purchase of Cadbury by US food giant Kraft for £11.7bn in 2010.

Sebastian Calnan, Head of our Food and Drink sector, comments: “Overseas-owned companies are now responsible for a very major and growing percentage portion of the UK food sector’s turnover. UK food companies are renowned for their internationally recognisable brands – it is no surprise that overseas companies have a strong interest in them. The UK food market in itself is also one of the most attractive markets, with consumers more willing than in other EU countries to pay for premium products. We expect that, barring a shock failure in the Brexit negotiations, the shift towards overseas ownership will continue.”

*Analysis of Companies House filings, 2016/17 - Top30 food manufacturers
**Based on turnover
***Year end March 31 2018

If you would like further information on this article, please contact Sebastian Calnan, or you can give us a call on 0345 070 6000.