Italian Nutella maker to buy Britain’s Thorntons

The board of British chocolate maker Thorntons said on Monday it had agreed a takeover deal by Italian rival Ferrero that values the firm at about £111.9 million (€156.2 million, $177.4 million).

Italian Nutella maker to buy Britain's Thorntons
A Thorntons shop in Oxfordshire in the UK. Photo: Stratford490/Wikicommons

Thorntons chairman Paul Wilkinson urged shareholders to accept the offer of 145 pence a share, a 42.9 percent increase on Friday's closing price.

“Ferrero is a successful global confectionery business with a strong family heritage and as such represents a good cultural fit for Thorntons,” he said in a statement.

“The board of Thorntons therefore has given its unanimous recommendation for the offer from Ferrero.”

The Italian company, which makes Nutella spread and the Ferrero Rocher and Kinder chocolates, said it wanted to expand further in an important market.

“Our business was founded nearly 60 years ago out of a passion for chocolate and with a commitment to quality,” said chief executive Giovanni Ferrero.

“We delivered our best ever results in the UK in 2014, giving us confidence that now is the right time to broaden our roots in this important market.”

Thorntons was established in 1911 and employs about 3,500 people, many of them located at its key factory in Alfreton in Derbyshire in northern England.

Ferrero was at the centre of a Franco-Italian spat last week when France's Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal explained on a popular French television programme that abstaining from Nutella was one measure to protect the environment – due to the spread's controversial palm oil content.    

“We have to replant masses of trees because there's been a massive deforestation, which also leads to climate change,” she said.

“For example, we have to stop eating Nutella because of its palm oil, which is seeing trees getting replaced and causing considerable damage.” 

Her comments provoked an angry backlast from her Italian counterpart Gian Luca Galletti who tweeted that Royal should “leave italian products alone”, adding that it would be “bread and Nutella for dinner tonight”.

The French minister later apologized.

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The Italian who created Kinder Surprise dies aged 83

William Salice, who helped create the hugely popular Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs for children, died in Italy on Thursday aged 83, his foundation said.

The Italian who created Kinder Surprise dies aged 83
The success of Kinder Surprise eggs, containing gifts, was swift and lasting. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP

Salice had been undergoing treatment for a stroke in a hospital in the northern Italian town of Pavia, his Color Your Life foundation and Italian media reports said Friday.

He joined the Ferrero food group in 1960 and went on to become right-hand man to company boss Michele Ferrero, a visionary who invented the Nutella chocolate and hazelnut spread and who died in 2015.

In the 1970s, the chocolate baron was seeking a means to get around the seasonal nature of Easter eggs and find a use for the manufacturing moulds that served no purpose for much of the year.

The outcome was the Kinder Surprise, a chocolate egg containing little plastic parts of toys to be assembled by children. The contents of the capsules inside the eggs varied widely and the success of the product was swift and lasting.

Ferrero has sold billions of Kinder Surprise eggs in more than 40 years and claims that its monthly output consists of enough chocolate to pave the 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet) of the Monterrey Macroplaza in Mexico.

“The inventor is Ferrero, I was just the material executor,” Salice often repeated, but he played a part in the creation of other renowned products such as the Ferrero Rocher and Pocket Coffee.

The Turin native retired in 2007 with a bonus of €400,000 ($422,000). He invested the sum in his Color Your Life campus on the Italian Riviera, aimed at enabling children aged between 13 and 18 to foster their strongest talents.

The huge success of Kinder Surprise eggs has on occasion been overshadowed by tragedy, including the death in Toulouse last January of a little girl aged three who choked on a toy. After an investigation the prosecutor cleared Ferrero.

The eggs are banned in the United States under a 1938 law prohibiting the insertion of any objects into food products, while in Chile they were banned last summer under new legislation to combat obesity.