Town’s fruit and nut plant geared for growth following merger

PUBLISHED: 16:35 04 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:35 04 August 2020

Toño Pons, president of Importaco  Picture: IMPORTACO

Toño Pons, president of Importaco Picture: IMPORTACO


A food business specialising in nuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate is planning to increase its investment in its Ipswich factory following a merger of two family-owned firms.

Ricardo Calcagni, chief executive of Besana  Picture: IMPORTACORicardo Calcagni, chief executive of Besana Picture: IMPORTACO

Italian firm Besana – which has a 60-strong-plus workforce in the town – has joined forces with Spanish company Importaco, which has a nuts and natural drinks business.

Importaco is buying a 51% stake in Besana as it strengthens its position in the natural food products market, including hazelnuts, cashew nuts, almonds, peanuts and seeds.

MORE – Company plans to double its workforce with major factory expansion

The merger will complete over the next couple of years, a spokesman said, and during that time Importaco and Besana plan to strengthen their presence in key markets – including the UK.

Besana, which has operated in the town since 2014, came to the UK in the mid-1980s. It established its first factory in the Cotswolds in the 1990s before moving to new offices and a factory in Ipswich to be near the Port of Felixstowe.

Pino Calcagni, honorary president of Besana  Picture: IMPORTACOPino Calcagni, honorary president of Besana Picture: IMPORTACO

In total around 10.1 metric tonnes of Besana product is packed and distributed from the Ipswich site to be distributed to customers including supermarket giants Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Morrison’s.

“Besana has been based in the UK since the mid of 1980s and has a long and enduring commitment to the UK,” said the Besana spokesman.

“It is a key market for Besana and will continue to be going forward. There are plans to increase investment at the Ipswich factory. The factory will continue to employ more than 60 people locally with scope for this to grow as production increases.”

In 2019, Importaco reported sales of £526m, while Basana’s turnover is around £167m, £86m of which was from its UK sales in 2019/20.

Besana's factory in Bluestem Road, Ipswich  Picture: GOOGLEMAPSBesana's factory in Bluestem Road, Ipswich Picture: GOOGLEMAPS

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GlobalData reports suggest that the UK nuts and seeds category is growing at a rate of more than 6% and will reach £726m by 2022.

Following the integration, the group will have combined sales of £694m, with 1,950 employees spread across 17 factories in five countries.

Importaco president Toño Pons will be chairman of the group following the merger, while the Besana-Calcagni family will join the group leadership team. Riccardo Calcagni will be chief executive and Pino Calcagni becomes honorary president of Besana.

Mr Pons said they were creating a “strong group”, with “a solid competitive position, both in Spain and in other European markets, with a high growth potential” through the deal.

“Through this transaction, we are consolidating our sustainable growth project based on quality and innovation, and leveraging our internationalisation and specialisation in natural products and healthy foodstuffs,” he said.

Pino Calcagni said: “The globalisation of new markets and the development of synergies to improve economies of scale are becoming key commercial factors. The Importaco Group is the ideal strategic partner to achieve these objectives and create value throughout the supply chain.”

Importaco has eight nuts production centres and four water bottling plants in Spain, a production centre in Poland, and a dried fruits plant in Turkey.

Besana, which is based in Naples and employs a total of 450 people, is one of the founding members of AlmaverdeBio, the first organic brand in Italy.

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