Posted: 15/03/2019

Ambrosi targets growth and more indie customers after Rowcliffe takeover

Rowcliffe will not change its business model, despite its sale to Ambrosi, a major Italian cheese producer, the new owner says

The UK independent trade will remain a key market for Rowcliffe despite the cheese & fine food distributor’s surprise sale to major Italian cheese producer and exporter Ambrosi last month, says its new owner.

Speaking to FFD exclusively, Ambrosi (UK) MD Sergio Raglio said that Rowcliffe would now look to increase the number of farm shops and delis it supplied.  

Ambrosi does not have plans to grow in UK supermarkets which Raglio sees as a more competitive market than the independent sector. 

He said: “Everybody is trying to have a piece of the market share [in the multiples] so for us the important market is the independents and foodservice.”

The business will continue to trade as normal under the Rowcliffe brand. Tim Rowcliffe will be supporting as chairman with Raglio in the managing director role.

“The plan is to grow 5-10% year-on-year,” said Raglio. “We have a three-year plan for the complete profitability turnaround of the company and we’re happy that we can pay back the investment in two to three years’ time.”

Ambrosi will also place more emphasis on boosting UK sales of its own PDO Italian cheeses – including Grana Padano Riserva and Aged Parmigiano Reggiano DOP – and will support this with POS material available for retailers. 

Ambrosi’s HQ is in Brescia, Lombardy, in northern Italy but the company also has offices in America and France and was looking to set up a base in the UK. 

“For us, the UK is the third largest market in Europe for speciality Italian cheese after France and Germany,” said Raglio.

When asked about the timing of the deal, Raglio said he didn’t see the acquisition being hampered by Brexit. 

“If Brexit does happen it’s better that we have a foot in the market already,” he said. “It will be more difficult for us to get our product into the UK market if we’re not a part of it.”

Speaking to FFD when the deal was announced, chairman Tim Rowcliffe said: “It’s not going to change anything. Our supplier base is still the same, our customers are still the same and our ethos is still the same.”

The partnership could also present opportunities for exporting British speciality cheeses as part of the Italian producer’s plans to grow Rowcliffe, said Raglio.

He added that Ambrosi’s marketing department believes there is an opportunity for Rowcliffe to begin exporting cheeses, like Stilton and mature cheddar,  to more than 50 countries that the producer is already exporting to.

This story appeared in the March issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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