Magners maker C&C has added Blackthorn, Olde English and Gaymers to its stable of drinks brands in a £45m deal.
Dublin-based C&C has agreed to buy Somerset-based Gaymer Cider Company, the UK cider business of US premium wine-maker Constellation Brands.
The firm, which employs more than 60 people in Northern Ireland, said the deal would strengthen its position in the UK which is the world's largest cider market by value.
The addition of Blackthorn gives C&C an established mainstream draught cider, as Gaymers and Olde English are mainly sold in shops and off-licences.
C&C, which also makes the Irish cider Bulmers and the Tennent's beer brand, said Gaymers was the smallest of the firm's three main cider brands but had the best potential for growth. Of the 900 million litres of cider sold in the UK every year, only around a third is drunk in pubs with the rest bought by customers in shops and off-licences.
C&C yesterday also got clearance from the Office of Fair Trading for its acquisition of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s business in Northern Ireland, the Republic and Scotland. The £180m deal includes ownership of Tennent's lager.
Gaymer upset some Blackthorn drinkers with the relaunch of the cider earlier this year after giving the product a slightly sweeter taste, although C&C said yesterday it had no plans to change any of the recipes.
The Gaymer operation has around 250 staff with a distribution centre in Bristol alongside its main production facility in Shepton Mallet.
The Shepton Mallet site is one of only three large-scale cider-making bases in the UK, capable of producing 200 million litres a year.
“This transaction strengthens our position within the world's largest cider market and broadens the scope of the group's existing cider offering,” C&C chairman Tony O’Brien said.
The company is paying for the deal through a new £60m facility arranged with three banks including Lloyds Banking Group.