Australian chocolatier acquired by UK investment company

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th February 2014
Hillier's Chocolates has been sold to the Australian arm of a UK investment firm

Australia’s oldest chocolatier, Ernest Hillier Pty Ltd (Ernest Hillier), has been acquired by Re:Capital, the Australian arm of UK investment company Hilco Capital.

The sale comes as the former owners of Ernest Hillier’s, the Piedimonte family, which owns a chain of supermarkets in Melbourne, focus on other business interests.

Ernest Hillier was founded in 1914 and operates under the Hillier’s Chocolates and Newman’s brands. The company’s products are sold in a variety of retail and wholesale locations across Australia.

Recognising the strong heritage of the iconic Australian brand, Re:Capital said it was “committed to preserving the Hillier’s Chocolates name and corporate identity” as well as its facilities. The business will continue to be run by the current Chief Executive Officer, Mark Campbell.

Re:Capital said it will maintain Hillier’s current Australian presence as well as expand into new regions domestically and internationally. As part of the transaction, Re:Capital said it would provide the working capital and operational expertise necessary to secure the long-term future of the business.

“We are delighted to welcome our new owners to the Hillier’s family, and see this as an exciting time full of opportunity for the business and our staff,” said Mark Campbell, CEO of Hillier’s Chocolates. “For nearly 100 years we’ve built our reputation for the highest quality confections in Australia and Re:Capital is the right owner to take the Hillier’s business to the next stage of growth,” he said.

“As we invest funds into Australia to help Ernest Hillier and similar business grow, we can also capitalise on our global network to help take Ernest Hillier’s great reputation for quality products to a worldwide audience,” said Paul McGowan, Global CEO of Re:Capital.

Ernest Hillier is the second Australian investment for Re:Capital, which opened its Australian office in Sydney in June 2013.

“Hillier’s is the kind of business we enjoy working with,” said James Turner, Investment Director for Re:Capital Australia. “It has a great brand, a high-quality product and many opportunities for segment growth,” he said.

Australian chocolate category

The $1.36 billion Australian chocolate category is dominated by big international confectionery companies such as Kraft, Nestle, Mars Food, Lindt & Sprungli, and Ferrero.

According to the Retail World Grocery Guide 2012, published by market research organisation Nielsen, Kraft held 49.6 per cent value and 51.5 per cent volume share of the overall chocolate category, Mars Food 16.5 per cent value and 18.5 per cent volume, Nestle 12.9 per cent value and 12.6 per cent volume, Lindt & Sprungli 7.5 per cent value and 4.2 per cent volume, and Ferrero 5.3 per cent value and 2.3 per cent volume.

The $445.5 million block chocolate segment was also dominated by the same players. Kraft held 68.7 per cent value and 70.2 per cent volume share, Nestle 14.5 per cent value and 14 per cent volume, and Lindt & Sprungli 9.4 per cent value and 5.9 per cent volume.

In the $282.8 million chocolate bars segment, Kraft held 44 per cent value and 43 per cent volume share, Nestle 20.9 per cent value and 20.3 per cent volume, and Mars Food 21.1 per cent value and 22.8 per cent volume.