Tayto takeovers make it biggest UK-owned snack maker
Crisp giant Tayto has expanded further into Great Britain's snack market as it swallows up two English food firms making popcorn and other snacks.
The Tandragee firm has bought Tavern Snacks in London and 75% of Devon-based company Portlebay - making it the biggest British-owned maker of snacks in the UK.
The firm, famous for red-suited mascot Mr Tayto, is owned by Manderley Food Group.
Manderley now employs around 1,500 people across the UK - with just over 300 people based in Northern Ireland.
Tayto chief executive Paul Allen said: "We are really impressed with the innovation and enthusiasm of the Portlebay team and they make a first-class, premium product.
"While they will continue to run the business independently from Tayto, we shall of course provide access to all the wider group capabilities and we are looking forward to seeing significant growth.
"The purchase of Tavern has allowed us to diversify both by adding another brand and also by introducing their range of nuts to our portfolio. We are now producing crisps in Tandragee which are being sold under the Tavern name all around London."
Tayto has made other large acquisitions in Great Britain including Golden Wonder, Ringos, Real Crisps, Mr Porky, Jonathan Crisp, and also makes own brand snacks for supermarkets.
Tayto is still owned by the Hutchinson family and headquartered in Co Armagh.
Larger rival Walkers is owned by American firm Pepsico, and McCoys - the second largest - is owned by German firm KP.
Tayto's 75% acquisition of Portlebay marks the company's first venture into the popcorn market.
Portlebay currently supplies stores such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Co-Op and a number of independent retailers, mainly in the south of England.
The news comes as Tayto closes its 60th anniversary celebrations.
Tavern Snacks, which makes crisps, roasted nuts and pork scratchings, was founded in the 1970s and sells mainly to the licensed trade in the Greater London area.
The company also supplies a wide range of other products, including bar supplies such as straws and cocktail sticks, through to confectionery and even pickled eggs, mussels and cockles.
Tayto produces more than one million crisps and snacks at its Tandragee site each working day.
However, last year the firm asked for 20 voluntary redundancies at its plant in Tandragee after the snack manufacturer claimed production costs here are considerably higher than at any of its sites in England.
Its latest accounts show the group made more than £7.1m pre-tax profit for the year ending June 2015. The same year the firm also had a turnover of £174m.
In July, the firm bought over Co Down beauty spot Quintin Castle to turn it into a venue for corporate events.
In 2006 the firm took over Golden Wonder and the contract to produce Mini Pringles for Procter & Gamble. The deal saved more than 500 jobs that were under threat in the firm's Scunthorpe and Corby factories when Golden Wonder entered administration the same month.
A year later, Tayto acquired Sirhowy Valley Foods, makers of the Real Crisps range.
And in 2008 Tayto took over Birmingham-based Red Mill snack foods which makes Oinks, Quarterbacks, Salt and Vinegar Savoury Sticks and Bacon Rashers.
In 2009 it was announced Tayto had acquired Staffordshire-based firm Jonathan Crisp, the trading name of Natural Crisps, after it ran into difficulties.
And in 2012, Tayto took over pork scratchings firm Midland Snacks. At the time the firm said it hoped to expand its Chinese, Australian and western USA exports.
Last week, Tayto was runner-up in the Best Marketing Achievement category in the NI Food and Drink Awards in association with the Belfast Telegraph.
Tayto NI was highly commended for its Taste of Home campaign, which invited Northern Ireland people and ex-pats to vote for their favourite crisp flavours from tastes associated with Northern Ireland such as the Ulster Fry, curry chip and brown lemonade.