#FoodUnion heritage brands scoop ice cream market in countries ignored by multinationals

| June 7, 2019

Having emerged from the rubble of the global financial crisis in 2008, the dairy giant Food Union has not only gone on to conquer a highly competitive Latvian market but now, with the continual financial support from founding investor Meridian Capital, have set their sights on major global expansion.

With their headquarters situated in Hong Kong, Meridian Capital Limited is an international investment firm with a diversified investment portfolio spanning consumer goods, real estate, hospitality, infrastructure and natural resources.

In 2017, Meridian Capital pledged a further $55 million investment to fund an expansion project in China and a subsequent deal followed with PAG, one of Asia’s largest private equity firms, who invested $170 million allowing Food Union to begin production in two newly completed dairy factories in China.

The financial results have been impressive with Food Union in Europe achieving an annual turnover of 280 million Euro last year. The Meridian Capital and PAG investment in Food Union was named Baltic Private Equity/Venture Capital Deal of 2017.

Meridian Capital’s connections to the Baltic Diary industry were established long before the creation of Food Union. Askar Alsinbayev, founding partner of Meridian Capital Limited, had helped transform Unimilk into the second largest dairy company in the CIS.

Building on the success of Russian firm Unimilk, Meridian Capital offered support to long-term partner Andrey Beskhmelnitsky in Latvia and in 2011, the entrepreneur consolidated the production capacities of two Latvian enterprises and Food Union was created.

Since 2012, Food Union have rapidly risen to the top of their sector through a commitment to a set of principles that set them apart. An emphasis has been placed on innovation and using fresh, high quality ingredients as well as an ability to keep a thumb on the pulse of constantly changing customer demands. The nine brands that Food Union successfully brought to market placed them at the top of Latvian dairy industry.

Today, the goalposts have shifted. Food Union is one of the largest dairy and ice cream producing groups in Central and Eastern Europe with more than 2500 employees, factories in seven countries and suppliers which include hundreds of farms in Europe. The company exports to more than 25 countries, with the main markets being the Baltics, China, Denmark, Norway and Romania.

Meridian Capital managing partner Askar Alshinbayev praised Food Union as ‘an investment opportunity backing the growth of a company with strong leadership, management and governance, and an established track record of creating innovative products that have the capacity to lead in their category. Andrey’s expertise is exceptional and his team are committed to constant innovation and connecting with consumers through products’.

Meridian Capital, who have proven crucial for Food Union’s acceleration and growth beyond the borders of the Baltics thus far, will continue to play a large role, overseen by Alshinbayev, who deals with the company’s finance, investor relations and corporate issues. Already at the top of the pile, Food Union’s growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Interesting facts

  1. The Latvian dairy and ice cream market is ‘very competitive’. 
  2. PAG is one of the Asia’s largest alternative investment management firms. 
  3. Askar Alsinbayev was a Board Member of Unimilk from 2006 to 2010 and was central to its development from 3 dairy factories into the #2 dairy company in the CIS and thereafter its merger with Danone Russia.
  4. Andrey Beskhmelnitsky is the chairman of the Board for the Food Union Baltic and CIS division and acting CEO of Food Union China. 
  5. Food Union have focused on heritage ice cream brands ignored by multinationals and high standards, and by bringing creativity and innovation whilst respecting tradition.
  6. Askar Alshinbayev‘s 2017 comments on further Meridian and PAG investment 

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