Westland Horticulture buys Cranswick Pet Products

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A FAST-growing horticulture business from Northern Ireland has snapped up Cranswick Pet Products in Driffield for £18m with the intention of growing its market share in Europe’s wild bird food sector.

Westland Horticulture bought out the senior management and majority shareholder Lloyds Development Capital, which joined forces in 2009 to buy the parent company Cranswick Pet and Aquatics from pork giant Cranswick plc.

Edward Conroy, joint managing director, told the Yorkshire Post: “We want to grow the wild bird food sector in Europe. It is our plan to do that from Driffield, to grow that site.”

He and fellow MD Robert Lavery founded Westland in the early 1990s. Turnover has grown from £15m to £77m over the last 15 years.

Derek Black, the York-born chief executive who led the £17m management buyout in 2009, will remain with the business, said Westland. It will keep its name.

Cranswick Pet Products sales rose to £41.3m during the year ending March 2012, up more than 10 per cent from £37.5m in 2009.

Mr Conroy added: “Both Westland and Cranswick Pet Products have a strong record in growing categories, delivering innovation and consumer quality.

“It is these synergies that make this one of the most exciting opportunities in gardening. A key reason for Westland to invest in Cranswick was the knowledge and the commitment of the senior management team as well as its high quality workforce.”

Cranswick Pet Products manufactures and distributes branded and own label food products for wild birds and small animals. It employs 112 people.

Sam Marriage, national sales manager, said: “We are incredibly excited with the new opportunity to merge with Westland.

“We are confident that together as one we can grow the market and communicate the benefits of quality bird food, which will increase the number of birds in the garden and will give gardeners great enjoyment.”

LDC will keep its majority stake in the Tropical Marine Division, the other trading division of Cranswick Pet and Aquatics.

John Garner, a director at the state-backed private equity firm, said: “Our investment saw us back a first-rate management team of a market-leading business which has shown strong resilience throughout a sustained period of recession and has ultimately generated a good return for LDC.”

Speaking in 2009, Mr Black told the Yorkshire Post: “The UK population are mad about their pets”.

“If they have got a pound in their pocket, they will buy a bag of bird feed. Wild birds are an extension of keeping a pet.”

The wild bird market is forecast to grow 10 per cent year-on-year.