Takeover of Sheese maker Bute Island Foods to trigger flurry of vegan food activity

Experts are predicting a surge in activity in the vegan and plant-based food sector following the recent acquisition of a prominent Scottish player.

Bute Island Foods, which makes vegan cheese alternative Sheese, as well as own-brand products, was last week swallowed by Canadian dairy company Saputo – owner of labels including Cathedral City, Country Life and Utterly Butterly.

Saputo paid some £109 million to buy both Bute Island Foods, which employs about 180 staff, and a factory owned by Wisconsin Specialty Protein in Reedsburg.

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The new owner has pledged more £3m over five years to support community initiatives on Bute as part of its wider commitment to invest 1 per cent of its pre-tax profits each year in community programmes and organisations.

Bute Island Foods, which employs around 180 staff, makes vegan cheese alternative Sheese.Bute Island Foods, which employs around 180 staff, makes vegan cheese alternative Sheese.
Bute Island Foods, which employs around 180 staff, makes vegan cheese alternative Sheese.

Legal heavyweight Dentons advised Bute Island Foods on the deal and experts at the firm are forecasting a flurry of activity surrounding the sector.

Data from Kantar shows the plant-based dairy category has doubled in size over the past five years and is now worth just under £600m. A total of 15,206 products carried The Vegan Society’s trademark in 2020, up from 14,262 in 2019, with Sheese among the labels carrying the certification.

Bute Island Foods was advised by Lorna McCaa, a tax partner in Dentons’ Glasgow office; Adam Knowles, a corporate senior associate in the firm’s Edinburgh office; and Brian Moore, a corporate partner who is also based in Edinburgh.

McCaa said: “We expect to see much more activity in the plant-based and vegan sector in the months ahead.

“There’s huge demand out there for high-quality, authentic products like Sheese, which is shown by the number of brands asking Bute Island Foods to make own-label products.

“It’s fantastic for a Scottish company with the heritage and provenance of Bute Island Foods to attract the attention of an international player like Saputo.

“Appearing on the radar of a global entity is down to the quality of the products being made by the company and the efficient way in which the team runs its business.

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“We’re looking forward to supporting other businesses like Bute Island Foods on the next steps in their growth journey.”

The deal marks the first major transaction in the vegan market for the legal firm’s Scottish team, building on its experience in the wider food and drink sector.

Lawyers at the firm have advised on deals including Robert Wiseman Dairies’ takeover by Muller, and the sale of First Milk’s hard cheese business to Adams Foods and its sports nutrition business to Protein Partners.

In the whisky industry, the firm has advised Edrington on the sale of its Cutty Sark whisky brand to La Martiniquaise-Bardinet and the sale of its Glenturret distillery to Art & Terroir, as well as Edrington’s purchase of the Glenrothes Speyside single malt Scotch whisky from wine and spirits merchant Berry Bros & Rudd.

A spokesperson for Bute Island Foods added: “Becoming part of Saputo will help us to bring Sheese and our other products to a much wider audience.

“As we approach our 35th anniversary, we’re excited to be taking this next step on our journey and we thank Dentons for helping us spread our wings.”

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