Mystery buyer throws Highland Toffee a lifeline

Related tags York Corporation

McGowans, the Scottish confectionery outfit behind the Highland
Toffee brand, has been bought by a mystery buyer, ending its month
long receivership battle, Tom Armitage reports.

The receivers acting on the firm's behalf, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC​), confirmed that Sally Gardens - a limited company formed specifically to run the company - had bought the McGowans business and its assets for an undisclosed sum.

"It is extremely satisfying that a solution has been found to allow the business to develop under new ownership,"​ said joint receiver Graham Martin.

"During the course of the past five weeks the commitment on the part of employees, customers and suppliers in working with us to preserve the business has been exceptional,"​ he added.

A spokesperson for McGowans, which has an annual turnover of around £6 million, dismissed suggestions that the acquisition was a management buyout and confirmed that the new company will still trade under the same name.

McGowan's, founded in Stenhousemuir in the 1920s, was previously owned by Swiss food conglomerate Nestlé and then Dutch confectioner Phideas, before retuning back to Scottish ownership two years ago.

The firm, which also makes Lanky Larry Sour Lemon and Lippy Chick bars, announced that it had gone into receivership in March earlier this year, after an internal restructuring plan failed to live up to expectations and the firm notched up record debts.

British confectionery distributors of all sizes, including Nestlé, Cadbury and Kraft, have all faced tough trading conditions in recent months - sales volumes have been adversely affected by an EU-wide drive to tackle obesity, while high raw material costs (particularly sugar) have squeezed margins.

In April last year, leading global food producer Kraft announced the closure of its York production facility - a move that will see the production of its Terry's Chocolate Orange, Terry's All Gold and Twilight brands transferred to alternative sites across Sweden, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia later in the year.

Meanwhile, Mars, makers of the eponymous best-selling chocolate bar, announced last month that production of its leading Starburst and Twix brands is to be outsourced to Continental Europe - making 700 workers at its Slough production facility redundant.

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