LONDON (Reuters) – Pladis, the Turkish company that owns Godiva chocolate and McVitie’s biscuits, is considering making an offer for Nestle’s (NESN.S) U.S. confectionery assets, which could be valued at around $2 billion, as part of its international expansion plans.
A bid for Nestle’s U.S. portfolio — which includes regional mass-market brands such as Butterfinger, Crunch and 100 Grand — would appear to mark a shift from Pladis’s stated strategy of focusing on the high end of the market, which is performing better than mid-tier brands.
“We are looking at Nestle’s confectionery assets in the U.S.,” Chief Executive Cem Karakas told Reuters. “Certainly we haven’t made a decision, but we are looking at it.”
Nestle said in June it might sell its U.S. confectionery business, the latest sign of pressure on the North American market following last year’s failed bid by Mondelez International (MDLZ.O) for Hershey (HSY.N).
Pladis, itself born from a string of acquisitions, is not working with external financial advisors on the process, which has also attracted Lemonheads owner Ferrara.
Pladis, a subsidiary of Turkey’s Yildiz Holding, is interested in bolt-on acquisitions that give it manufacturing capacity or distribution in particular markets, Karakas said.
The global confectionery market will have retail sales of about $102.5 billion this year, according to Euromonitor.
Over the past five years, higher-end brands such as Ferrero Rocher, Lindor and Ritter have all grown more than 7 percent, while mass-market brands like Cadbury, Hershey’s and Mars have grown about 3 percent or less.
Consumers’ preference for artisanal or quality brands offsets some of the pressure exerted by growing health consciousness and moves away from sugary snacks.
Pladis is aiming to double its chocolate sales by the end of 2019, and turn Godiva into a 2 billion pound a year brand by 2021.
It has been working toward that goal with this year’s supermarket launch of Godiva chocolate bars, in flavors including blood orange, hazelnut and caramel. The move is aimed at expanding the brand away from the luxury boutiques where it has largely been sold.
The launch began in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf, followed by the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and China.
In the next couple of months, the new bars – which in Britain cost 1.50 pounds ($2) on promotion at supermarket Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) – will go on sale in Sweden and South Africa.
Godiva will generate annual supermarket sales of 500 million pounds by 2021, Karakas said, up from about 120 million pounds now. It currently generates about 800 million pounds of sales from boutiques, department stores, duty-free shops and online.
Yildiz, Turkey’s largest food group, has since 2007 spent $850 million to buy Godiva, as well as an estimated 2 billion pounds on McVitie’s owner United Biscuits and $221 million on DeMet’s Candy, maker of Flipz chocolate pretzels.
Last year, Yildiz combined those assets with its own Ulker (ULKER.IS) business to form London-based Pladis, with a view to listing it on the London Stock Exchange in 2020 or 2021.
Pladis, which does not include the larger Godiva retail store network, is on track for revenue of 3.2 billion pounds by the end of 2019, up from 2.2 billion pounds last year.
“It seems that with a bit of a stretch, we’ll be able to get there,” Karakas said. Pladis has hired a raft of senior managers from diverse industries to infuse the company with new ideas. Karakas is counting on a start-up mentality to accelerate sales.
“We are going to accelerate,” he said. “It’s very obvious and very doable.”
Sales rose 8 percent in the first half of the year, about twice the industry average, he said. He hopes to end the year with double-digit growth.
Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Keith Weir