Darrel Lea satisfies sweet tooth with Life Savers

Darrel Lea satisfies sweet tooth with Life Savers

Private-equity group Quadrant has sweetened the pot for confectionery brand Darrel Lea by acquiring the rights to the iconic Life Savers brand in Australia and New Zealand

The purchase from Nestle will see the manufacture of Life Savers for the region move from New Zealand to Australia where they were last produced in the early 2000s.

The acquisition is the first for Darrel Lea since Quadrant bought a majority stake in the confectionary company for $200 million from the Quinn family earlier this year.

It also sets in train Quadrant's expansion plans for Darrel Lea ahead of a potential future sale of the business.

"As part of our business growth ambitions, we are in the market for great confectionery brands and Life Savers is certainly that," says Darrel Lea CEO Tim York.

"We believe there is significant growth potential for the Life Savers brand through new product innovation and gaining additional distribution in Australia and New Zealand.

"With a high energy team, the ability to be agile, sales growth momentum and the backing of Quadrant Private Equity, we see a very bright future for the Darrell Lea business here in Australia."

Financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

However, the deal will see Life Savers manufactured at Darrel Lea's production facility at Ingleburn in Sydney's west.

The deal is a blow to jobs in New Zealand but Nestle says it is consulting with employees affected by the Life Savers acquisition.

Life Savers, first created in the US in 1912, have been a staple in Australian milk bars and retail shelves for generations.

Darrel Lea's history is almost as long, dating back to about 1917. The Aussie brand's sweet run hit a sour note in 2012 when Darrel Lea was placed into administration.

Tony Quinn, the Gold Coast-based founder of VIP Petfoods (since rebranded as Real Pet Food Company) acquired Darrel Lea later that year and implemented a major restructuring of the business.

The Quinn family is understood to still retain a minority stake in Darrel Lea following the sale to Quadrant in 2015.

Quadrant is forecasting double-digit growth for the business through both organic growth and acquisitions.

As part of the deal for Life Savers, it has also acquired the Black Night, Heards, Fabulicious, Odd Fellows and Mackintosh's brands through its sister company RJ's Licorice in New Zealand.

The Quinns acquired RJ's from New Zealander Roger Halliwell in 2015.

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