Investor exits bakery business as Issa brothers’ EG Group takes over

Growth capital investor, BGF, has exited of Yorkshire-headquartered bakery business, Cooplands.

The bakery company has been acquired by Blackburn-headquartered EG Group, owned by brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa and backed by TDR Capital. The Group which operates petrol stations and food outlets across the UK, Europe, America and Australia will according to the Issa brothers “broaden the reach of the Cooplands beyond its northern heartlands”.

BGF backed 135-year-old family business Cooplands with an £8.5m investment in December 2017, supplemented with £7.7m follow-on funding in November 2020. Over that period the business has  to 180 stores and cafes, with the new ownership providing a platform to move into transient petrol forecourt and retail convenience market.

Working with Paul Coopland, BGF has supported the business’ succession planning, helping to identify and recruit Belinda Youngs as CEO.

Youngs joined in 2019 with more than two decades’ experience in the grocery retail sector in the UK and Canada, including senior roles at Sobeys, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.

She has been supported by David Salkeld who was introduced by BGF’s Talent Network as non-executive chair in 2018 and Ciara Allan who was appointed CFO in April.

Youngs said: “With BGF as partners, we’ve made strong progress against ambitious growth plans, despite the obvious market challenges over the last 20 months.

“Cooplands has continued to open new stores, grow our geographical footprint and create jobs while developing new innovative and high-quality products for customers.

“EG Group is a powerhouse in UK business and given its successful track record in foodservice and retail, there is an obvious and very natural fit to which we now bring a long history of bakery skills and expertise in both manufacturing and retail.

“We’ve grown solidly over the past four years and improved our business enabled by BGF’s input.

“Today’s announcement is testament to that and the future for our brand, our people and customers looks very exciting.”

This is the third deal for the brothers in the last 12 months, having acquired Asda in October 2020, and follows EG Group’s purchase of fast food chain Leon in April.

EG Group co-CEOs Mohsin, left, and Zuber Issa

Zuber and Mohsin Issa, founders and co-CEOs of EG Group, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Cooplands’ many talented colleagues to the EG Group family.

“Cooplands has a proven track record in the fresh bakery sector and vertical integration with EG Group will help to further drive our success in foodservice, where we continue to see strong growth opportunities in the UK and globally.

“Following the acquisition of LEON in April, Cooplands is a fantastic fresh food brand to add to EG Group’s existing portfolio of third-party and popular foodservice brands.

“The transaction will broaden the reach of the Cooplands beyond its northern heartlands and bring its much-loved food to more existing and new customers through EG Group’s unparalleled network of roadside forecourts and retail convenience stores.

“We know that Cooplands’ impressive bakery platform and our food service expertise will be a winning combination.”

Barry Jackson, head of BGF Yorkshire & North East, added: “It’s been thoroughly enjoyable to be part of the Cooplands journey over the past four years.

“When we met the business, the vision was clear – to build a strong, professional management team who, with our backing, could unlock growth of the brand and accelerate store roll-out.

“The business has continued to focus on quality and understanding its customers a competitive market and our investment has helped to facilitate growth and position Cooplands for the future.

“This deal is a fantastic result for all involved and demonstrates the strategic value BGF brings.”

Paul Coopland said: “It’s extremely rewarding to have achieved what we set out to with BGF as backers.

“With their support, the business is in the capable hands of a fantastic management team with ambitious and forward-thinking new owners. I look forward to seeing what Cooplands goes on to achieve.”

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