Food manufacturing deal secures future of Cheshire baking ingredients firm

Simon Carruthers
X The Business Desk

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An historic UK food manufacturing company has been bought out by an international baking ingredients business in a deal that secures more than 50 jobs and investment at a plant in Cheshire.

John Morley (Importers), which was founded in 1958, has been acquired by James Fleming & Company, a subsidiary of Zeelandia UK which is part of Netherlands-based global food ingredients manufacturer Royal Zeelandia Group.

The acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, will see production of fruit fillings, dried fruit processing, mincemeat, date paste and macaroon paste continue at John Morley’s five acre site in Congleton, safeguarding more than 50 jobs. It will help Zeelandia expand its UK offering in the industrial, craft, wholesale, and in-store bakery sectors.

The corporate finance team at accountancy and advisory firm MHA Moore and Smalley advised John Morley’s managing director and majority shareholder, Paul Roberts, on the sale. The Manchester office of commercial law firm TLT provided legal advice.

The acquisition follows Zeelandia UK’s investment in a purpose built technical centre, factory, and warehouse which opened in 2020 in Colchester, Essex, and the successful acquisition in 2017 of James Fleming, a producer of mallow, mincemeat, jams, jellies, and caramel.

Paul Roberts, chairman of John Morley, said: “Having been in the area for over 60 years, we are absolutely delighted to have secured the future of our manufacturing operations in Congleton.

“The last year or so has been incredibly tough due to the pandemic, but this deal means jobs are protected and we can now look forward to a bright future as part of Zeelandia – another historic firm that shares the same values as us.”

David Amos, managing director of Zeelandia UK, said: “We are very excited to welcome the John Morley range into Zeelandia UK. The business has a long standing tradition for quality products, and considerable expertise in meeting the needs of industrial bakeries and foodservice customers.

“It also has a culture where people are highly valued and, as a family company with heritage dating back to the year 1900, we share many of the same values.”

The deal team at MHA Moore and Smalley was led by corporate finance director Simon Carruthers, corporate finance assistant manager Rob Holgate, and tax partner Colin Abrahams.

Simon Carruthers said: “This is a fantastic outcome for both parties as John Morley will benefit from the fresh investment and expertise that comes with being part of a global brand, protecting manufacturing jobs in Cheshire.

“Meanwhile, the acquisition further strengthens Zeelandia’s established position in the European market for bakery ingredients with operations in over 20 countries and sales in around 100 countries.”

The TLT team was led by corporate partner Mark Traynor and solicitor Seraphina Wilkins. Zeelandia was advised in the UK by the corporate team at Kuits, led by Kirsti Pinnell.