Diamond life for Kettle Chips with new owner

The maker of upmarket Kettle Chips has been sold to a US snack firm after an auction valuing the business at more than £400m.

Kettle Foods, which has a factory in Norwich, is to be acquired by San Francisco-based Diamond Foods, which is best known in the US for its Emerald snack nuts and Pop Secret microwave popcorn.

A variety of players in the North American market are thought to have made bids to Kettle's owner Lion Capital, the London-based private equity firm behind other well-known UK brands such as Weetabix and Wagamama.

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United Biscuits, which owns McVitie's, Jacob's and Twiglets, is also believed to have offered up to 200m for the UK part of the business. Diamond said it will take on Kettle operations in both the US and UK after sealing the agreement with Lion worth 615 million US dollars (402.3m). The deal should be completed by the summer.

Kettle, which makes gourmet style crisps, nuts and tortilla chips, is based in Oregon, where it was founded in 1978.

It started UK production in 1989 and moved to a dedicated site on the outskirts of Norwich in 1992. Lion Capital bought the business in 2006 for around 170m as part of a drive to become the UK's second biggest snack company behind PepsiCo. Other investments in its portfolio include Findus Group, the owner of the brands Findus, Young's and The Seafood Company.

It said its period of ownership had seen double-digit annual growth in revenues and a 30 per cent rise in annualised profits growth.

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