United Biscuits to quicken brands’ globalisation after buyout by Turkey’s Yildiz Holding

United Biscuits has been gobbled up by Turkish food manufacturer Yildiz Holding, a move it says transforms it into the world’s third biggest biscuit maker and will accelerate efforts to widen the global reach of the McVitie’s and Jacob’s brands.

McVitie's Jaffa Cakes are now part of the world's third largest biscuit maker following the sale of owner United Biscuits.
McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes are now part of the world’s third largest biscuit maker following the sale of owner United Biscuits.

The cookie maker says it will “continue to fulfil our growth potential” both in the UK and abroad following the decision to sell it by private equity owners Blackstone and PAI. Financial details of the acquisition are not known but Yıldız Holding is said to have paid over £3bn, according to Reuters.

The Istanbul-based company, which claims to be the biggest food group by revenue in central, eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, hopes to use United Biscuits as a vehicle into emerging markets where appetite for British brands is on the rise. The firm’s chairmain Murat Ulker tweeted: “United Biscuits is our new star” before going on to add: “May it bring good luck to all of us, to our country.”

Yildız Holding’s global aspirations dovetail with United Biscuit’s own, which has already spread learnings from its more experimental approach to marketing to Northern Europe, Africa and China.

The snack maker expects sales from outside the UK to rise from 15% to 25% of the total in the long-term. International sales rose 20% in 2013, the company has said, with it fortifying its biscuits in countries such as Nigeria and India with vitamins and minerals to adapt to a greater demand for healthier products.

United Biscuits chief executive Martin Glenn, who has led an overhaul of the business to a leaner structure over the last 12 months, says the company is looking abroad to grow its share of the biscuit and snacking markets “and where there is huge potential for all our brands”.

The company will continue to run as a standalone entity with Glenn at the helm. A spokeswoman told Marketing Week there would be no implications on the marketing function or the team as a result of the purchase, allowing the company to press ahead with existing expansion plans.

The deal caps off a period of significant changes at United Biscuits, most notably to its marketing, in order to raise the profile of its brands.

In the first quarter of the year, it pumped over £20m into rebranding its sweet and savoury products under the McVitie’s and Jacob’s brands respectively. At the time, the company said it wanted to harness the profile of its two largest brands to create a halo-effect across the wider portfolio that would set it up for future growth. The Grey London-created marketing strategy seemingly worked with sales rising 1.3% in the six months after the McVitie’s masterbrand campaign launched according to the company, while return on investment almost doubled (87%) on the amount invested in media in the period.

United Biscuits has said the performance will provide a roadmap as to how it pushes its brands into new countries. TV combined with stronger shopper marketing form the crux of the plan, balancing short-term sales through heavy promotion with long-term brand equity.

In the UK, it plans to invest around 5% of its marketing budget on test and learn projects to support the 90% and 5% spent on mass-reach TV and digital advertising respectively.