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Startup Spotter

Danone in talks with French cookie firm Michel et Augustin

By Oliver Nieburg+

30-Jun-2016
Last updated on 30-Jun-2016 at 16:57 GMT2016-06-30T16:57:09Z

Danone in talks with Michel et Augustin after setting up fund to acquire innovative companies.. Photo: Michel et Augustin
Danone in talks with Michel et Augustin after setting up fund to acquire innovative companies.. Photo: Michel et Augustin

Danone sees opportunities to grow French cookie brand Michel et Augustin in the US after opening exclusive discussions to acquire a minority stake.

Danone said yesterday the French cookie brand had carved out a solid position in France and it would now look to grow the business internationally after acquiring a 40% share from french holding company Groupe Artemis.

A $44m brand

Michel et Augustin was founded in 2004 by Michel de Rovira and Augustin Paluel-Marmont. The pair will continue to run the business alongside Danone. 

The French premium cookie firm reported a steep rise in 2015 sales to around €40m ($44m).

“Danone’s expertise would provide strong support to Michel et Augustin, accelerating its international development — particularly in the United States — while maintaining its originality,” said Danone in a press release.

Danone anticipates gradually increasing its stake in the firm. Under the proposed deal, Danone will take around 40% of the company, Artemis will continue to hold a 45% share and the rest will be held by the company founders.

The bulk of Michel et Augustin's revenues come from biscuits (45%). The premium Michel et Augustin brand also produces dairy products, fresh desserts and beverages.

The Financial Times previously called Michel et Augustin a “good mood” brand in the vein of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or Innocent smoothies.

Danone’s acquisition kitty

The deal marks the first for Danone’s newly created corporate venture capital unit based in New York, which will be fully operational by Fall 2016.

Under Danone Manifesto Ventures, Danone will give operational and financial assistance to innovative, high-growth potential companies, which will be given independence to grow their enterprise.

Back in biscuits

Danone was previously the global leader in biscuits. In 2006, it was the number one player in 71% of global biscuit markets, according to a presentation from the company.

Marion Cocherel, senior manager of media relations at Danone, told ConfectioneryNews: "The idea is not to renew our business in biscuits. It's to invest in small companies with the ability to invent the food models of tomorrow."

She said that biscuits was once a $2bn global market for Danone. "If we want to invest in biscuits its a small company ($44m in revenues). We're buying the spirit of the company. They are very good marketers and we buy into that potential."

Danone offloaded its biscuits business to Kraft (now Mondelēz) in 2007. That deal included all the Groupe Danone Biscuits & Cereals division except Danone's stakes in Britannia and a JV with Argentinean firm Arcor.

 

Danone was formally a world leader in the biscuits category. Source: Danone company presentation

Before 2007, Danone held stakes in top global biscuit firms such as Naobisco, LU and United Biscuits. Its biscuit business posted around €2bn ($2.2b) in sales in 2006 with volumes of 660,000 metric tons.

Its biscuits arm had operations in more than 15 countries with 36 plants and 15,000 employees.

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