GREENCORE could be facing a new competitor in the UK ready-meals business after the man who beat it to Northern Foods in the spring bought another frozen-meals firm to expand his business.
Ranjit Boparan, who made his name as a chicken supplier in the north of England, yesterday agreed terms for his 2 Sisters company to buy Brooks Avana from the troubled food group Premier Foods.
Mr Boparan will pay around £30m (€35m) for the chilled-food and bakery business, which has been loss-making for some time.
The deal will complement Northern Foods, which Mr Boparan bought in March after a drawn-out battle with Greencore.
The Irish firm had agreed a deal for Northern in November last year only for Mr Boparan to effectively gazump it in early 2011.
It is an open secret in the market that Premier Foods has the "for sale" sign on most of its businesses as it seeks to pay down a huge debt pile of more than £1.25bn (€1.46bn).
Mr Boparan's holding company, which owns 2 Sisters, said the deal would give it greater leverage when dealing with the major multiples in the UK and was a "strong strategic fit" for the company.
Despite the question of competition for Greencore, NCB's Darren Greenfield said the deal was on the whole positive for Patrick Coveney's company.
"Overall, further rationalisation of this sector is to be welcomed. Allied to Greencore's recent move to consolidate Uniq, the customer base will have fewer suppliers to choose from and this should facilitate better pricing across the category, a key point at a time of persistently high and volatile input costs," he said.
Greencore was down marginally in Dublin trading at 62c.