Chinese chestnut major buys French company to conquer Europe

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One of China’s biggest processed snack and frozen foods companies has acquired a majority share of an EU counterpart in a move that it says is to “achieve a strategic command” of a European value chain.

American Lorain Corporation, from Shandong province’s, bought 51% share capital in France’s Athena Group, which manufactures and distributes Asian-focused food products, for just over US$2.7m.

ALC’s lines include chestnut-based products, convenience foods and frozen goods. The company distributes throughout much of China, as well as to numerous export markets in Asia and Europe. It operates through five direct and indirect subsidiaries and one leased factory in China.

The Athena Group, meanwhile, is one of France’s largest producers of canned chestnuts and bean sprouts products. Founded in 1968, it currently operates two factories in Europe, and is now one of the largest suppliers of Asian foods to French supermarket chains. It imports a number of products, such as coconut milk, noodle, soy sauce and rice paper from China, Thailand and Malaysia.

Athena's sales channel now covers over 80% of the supermarket chains in France and besides sales generated under its own brand, it is also a main supplier for private brand chestnut, bean sprout and imported Asian food products for major supermarkets.

Si Chen, American Lorain’s chairman and chief executive, said: "We have been placing increasing emphasis in recent years to building a stronger international sales network, and this acquisition marks the other important step for American Lorain​. 

France is in a central position in Europe's food supply as well as logistics, and this acquisition will potentially enable American Lorain to achieve a strategic command of the whole chestnut industry value chain in Europe​.”

Si added that ALC will provide strong support for raw materials as well as the procurement of Asian food supplies in China. In turn, the company will use Athena's existing sales channels in Europe to supply a wider range of food products to the European market. 

American Lorain and Athena will jointly work in this strategic change to develop new products with reduced cost in Europe's chestnut and Asian foods market, and strengthen its leading position in Europe​,” he said.

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