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UK-based bakery group Cotswold Food Partnership acquired Sparks and Queen of Hearts bakeries.
ICFG Midlands provided advice in 2010.
UK-based bakery group Cotswold Food Partnership acquired Sparks and Queen of Hearts bakeries.
Target Company Name Sparks Bakery and Queen of Hearts Bakery
Deal Types
  • Debt & Equity Financing
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Strategic Advice
Target Country United Kingdom
Buyer Name / MBO Team / MBI Team Shareholder of Cotswold Food Partnership
Buyer Country United Kingdom
Transaction Description


Business growth

Founded in 2006 by Carl Le Neveu and Mark Rooza, The Cotswold Food Partnership (CFP) set out with the intention of developing an innovative range of specialist bread, cakes and confectionary products to be sold to UK supermarkets. The vision was to be a 100% British-focused business, established to manufacture, or source and supply, food products from around the world.

Carl Chadwick and Neal Myers have been involved with CFP from inception and have a thorough understanding of the food industry and specialise in providing strategic, financial and transactional advice to shareholders, directors and management teams. Using their broader business expertise and their knowledge of the difficulties that can arise when dealing with powerful and dominant buyers, they have helped CFP develop and grow to be a company that now boasts a turnover of £28million, manufacturing bases in the North and South of England, and supplier agreements with Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose supermarkets.

Strategic planning

Originally the business model was to understand the needs of the supermarkets and their customers and develop these ideas into new products. CFP then brokered the relationship between suppliers and buyers and received a commission on sales. CFP did not have bakery facilities of its own, and were dependent on subcontracted manufacture.

Mark Rooza commented, “The commission only model was working well, but CFP wanted to vertically integrate into manufacturing to increase the variety of the supply chain and widen the distribution channel. CFP had gained significant first hand knowledge of what our customers wished to buy, and more importantly, the prices buyers were prepared to pay. This placed us a very strong position to assess the qualities our own bakery would need to have, and the search for suitable bakery facilities began!”

Acquiring bakery facilities

Sparks Bakery in Bradford was identified as a suitable acquisition and the current owners, the Ablewhite Family, allowed Sunaxis to conduct a review of the bakery and compile an independent assessment of how their business could be improved if acquired by CFP. The deal completed in June 2009, enabling CFP to increase production and leverage Sparks’ existing contract with Morrisons. It also gave CFP a distribution base in the North of England.

Shareholder agreements

As an independent adviser, part of Sunaxis’ role was to raise the funds to buy out the Ablewhite family shareholders who wanted to retire and guide the remaining family on how to structure shareholder agreements.

Disposal and management buy-out

With the new management team up and operational, it soon became clear that the retail part of the Sparks business would become a major distraction of management resource. Sunaxis was appointed to arrange the sale of two of the retail shops to Coupland of Doncaster, and the remaining shop was sold to a management buy out team. This left CFP able to focus on commercial baking and developing an improved customer portfolio.

Cost accounting and raw material pricing

Throughout the growth of the business Sunaxis has helped CFP improve accounting and management information systems, including the introduction of costing systems and processes to accurately cost production and ensure continual improvements in profits.

Commodity prices and a number of changing trends in the way consumers buy impact the profit margin food businesses are able to deliver. Sunaxis have helped CFP create a system to analyse individual product recipes, how raw materials are sourced and prices negotiated. CFP now have the tools to understand the exact profit margin of individual lines rather than simply understanding the overall profitability of the company or operating unit. This alone has enabled them to make significant changes in operating processes to deliver improvements in both profits and the range of product choices available.

A team of dedicated professionals now work full-time on new product ideas, for the discerning bakery retailer and food service industries. Their inspiration comes from researching the market, listening to customers and consumers, and ensuring they keep their products and services ahead of the game.

Strategic review of food business

The latest chapter in this impressive story of growth, all of which has occurred during a recession, is the acquisition of the Queen of Hearts bakery in Oxford. This business was initially purchased separately in order to control the risk to the CFP Group of buying a business from insolvency. A year later, following a strategic review of the entire CFP business, Queen of Hearts was integrated into the CFP Group.

The acquisition of Queen of Hearts has succeeded in opening up the supply chain to Waitrose, given the business a southern base, and reduced the cost of delivery to stores in the South. It has also strengthened the relationship with Morrisons.

Business structures and tax planning

The Cotswold Food Partnership Bakery Group is now the holding company for Cotswold Food Partnership, Sparks and Queen of Hearts bakeries. Through this company structure, each division is able to take advantage of appropriate tax reliefs, focus on innovation in product development and through working in partnership with other bakeries it continues to retain a niche customer base.

Developing new bakery products

CFP is also now developing products for a number of leading retail brands and currently deals with four of the leading supermarkets. It has agreements in place to source raw materials from over 35 countries, and manufacturing bases in the North and South of England. This progression has helped to ensure continual product innovation, that produce is delivered as fresh as possible, thus increasing shelf life, and allowed distribution into be expanded in to Ireland.

Industry Sectors
  • Food and Beverages
ICFG Office Midlands, United Kingdom
ICFG Advisory ICFG Midlands provided advice in 2010.

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