Young’s Seafood bought by pork processor, prior owner

Published on
July 2, 2019

Malton, United Kingdom-based pork processor Karro Food Group has reached an agreement to acquire Young’s Seafood Limited.

This purchase creates a new multi-protein food group with combined sales of around GBP 1.2 billion (USD 1.5 billion, EUR 1.3 billion) and a workforce of some 5,000 people across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Karro has been owned by international investor CapVest Partners LLP since March 2017. Young’s and Karro will operate as two separate businesses within the enlarged group.

CapVest previously owned Young’s, but sold the company, alongside the Findus brands, in 2008 for GBP 1.1 billion (USD 1.38 billion, EUR 1.2 billion) to private equity firms Lion Capital, Bain Capital, and HPS Investment Partners. Those firms separated out the Findus brands from Young’s, selling them to Nomad Foods – the owner of Birds Eye – in 2015. 

Since then, still under the ownership of the firms, Young’s formed a partnership with The Fishin’ Company to drive U.S. sales.  

Young’s was put up for sale again back in April 2018 by the private equity firms, which led to multiple firms – including Mitsubishi and U.K. Fisheries –  vying to acquire the manufacturer. This sale was despite the company eking out higher sales in 2018, which rose 4.3 percent to GBP 545.9 million (USD 689.5 million, EUR 610 million). A large part of that was overseas sales, which rose 180 percent in Young’s fourth quarter. 

Di Walker, current executive chair of Karro, has been appointed CEO of the new group comprised of the two companies. 

“We are very excited about the opportunity to create an ambitious multi-protein food business of considerable scale,” Walker said. “Young’s and Karro are highly complementary businesses and the combined platform will have strong market positions in two important protein categories that are experiencing consistent long-term growth. Today’s agreement will provide both businesses with the opportunity to further develop and broaden our relationships with our key partners.”

Karro is one of the U.K.’s leading meat processers, producing bacon, gammon, fresh pork, frozen sausage, ham, and cooked meats. According to the company’s website, Karro processes 45,000 pigs each week, bringing product to supermarkets and wholesalers with “full supply chain visibility.”

“We are delighted to be moving forward with Karro and CapVest and we believe this move will be positive for the fish and seafood industry as a whole,” Young's CEO Bill Showalter said. “With CapVest’s existing understanding of our industry, and as part of a multi-protein food group, we will have the opportunity to inspire more consumers to love fish through our fresh, frozen, own-label and branded products. The transaction will build an even stronger foundation from which we can drive growth, providing exceptional quality fish and stand out innovation to countries around the world.”

Young’s first quarter earnings for 2019 showed a “solid underlying performance, growth with key customers in own-label and foodservice, and continued growth in branded sales,” the company said. Young’s also recently hired Mark Richmond, a 40-year veteran of the British food manufacturing sector.

“CapVest believe strongly that the combination of Young’s and Karro will create a differentiated and attractive multi-protein platform,” Jason Rodrigues, a partner at CapVest, said. “We look forward to working closely with management to accelerate investment and strengthen the competitive position of each business, whilst also pursuing other acquisition-led growth opportunities.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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