The Serious Sweet Company Acquires John Bull Confectioners in the UK

The Serious Sweet Company, a manufacturer of high-end British confectionary located in Harrowgate, United Kingdom, said on May 18, 2023, it acquired John Bull (Confectioners) Limited and John Bull Wholesale Limited, a manufacturer and a retailer of rock, chocolate, nougat, and other confectionary, located in Bridlington, United Kingdom. John Bull Confectioners is the latest acquisition by The Serious Sweet Company. The company has completed a series of acquisitions in the high-quality confectionary space in the United Kingdom.

Transaction Summary

The Facts of the Acquisition

The Serious Sweet Company’s vision is to manufacture and sell high-quality and rich traditional English confectionery. Its main distribution channel is through its online company websites and through grocers like Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots, Whole Foods, BP, and Booths. Collectively, these grocers account for more than 60% of the UK grocery industry’s revenues and locations. Serious Sweet has aggressively grown since its incorporation in 2012 with a range of customer brands and its award-winning brand, “Ultimate English Confectioneries of Yorkshire.” Additionally, it has acquired Mallow & Marsh, Mr. Stanley’s London, and Mighty Fine to boost its offerings and establish an online retail presence by acquiring these companies’ online websites.

Our Take on the Acquisition

In our opinion, the purpose of this latest acquisition of John Bull Confectioners and sister concern John Bull Wholesale is for The Serious Sweet Company to expand its confectionary offering substantially with a wider variety of John Bull Confectioners while remaining true to its vision of selling rich, traditional English confectionery.

Additionally, with The Serious Sweet Company’s updated branding and established trade relationships with grocers like Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and others, products of John Bull can be updated to be sold on the shelves of other confectionary stores and grocers on a national and international scale.

Historically, a substantial source of income for John Bull was its own retail outlet in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. So a more national reach through its acquisition by The Serious Sweet Company has good prospects for growth. The acquisition’s success will hinge on updating John Bull’s packaging to reflect current marketing practices with fresh and vibrant packaging and approved branding that showcases its heritage and high quality. This will make the products stand out on shelves in grocers like Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco. This has already been done with Mr. Stanley’s, established in 1843, another of The Serious Sweet Company’s acquisitions.

The Serious Sweet Company benefits from this acquisition by substantially enhancing its product range and acquiring a fully staffed confectionary factory while keeping true to the company’s mission to make high-quality and rich classic English confectionery. Acquiring a family-owned confectionary company that has been in business in Yorkshire since 1911 achieves just that.

Additionally, John Bull’s retail outlet can carry the marshmallow, brittle, fudge, and honeycomb already sold by The Serious Sweet Company. The factory run by John Bull Confectioners can also be used to produce some of The Serious Sweet Company’s products as production expands.

The Transaction

Date:May 18, 2023
Purpose: To grow by acquiring similar high-end sugar confectionary niche companies in the United Kingdom for a more comprehensive offering.
Acquirer’s Statement:Rob Whitehead, founder and managing director of Serious Sweets, said the acquisition would “significantly [enhance] the products and formats we can offer customers.” He added that Serious Sweets has “a strong investment programme” to build on the work done by John Bull Confectionery’s former owners.

Target/Seller: John Bull (Confectioners) Limited and John Bull Wholesale Limited

Company Information
Industry: Confectionary
Employees: 51-200 (Self-published on LinkedIn)
Target #1: John Bull (Confectioners) Limited
The company manufactures confectionary and sells directly through retail stores
Target #2:John Bull Wholesale Limited
The company wholesales its confectionary line to foodservice distributors
Locations:John Bull Factory, Office and Retail Store: Unit 1, Lancaster Road, Bridlington, United Kingdom
John Bull Retail Store: Scarborough, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
John Bull Retail Store: 19-20 Prince Street, Bridlington, United Kingdom
John Bull Retail Store: 7 Minster Gates, York, United Kingdom

Product Information

Products:Single serving and party packs sold directly to customers at retail shops and in bulk to distributors
Rock – Flavored, hard-boiled sugar candy
Nougat – Chewy candy with assorted nuts
Toffee – Flavored confectionary made with caramelized sugar with butter
Fudge – Flavored confectionary made with sugar, butter, and milk
Biscuits – British-styled, flour-based baked biscuits
Chocolate – Assorted milk chocolates
Market Reach:Bridlington, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Scarborough, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Financial Information

Net Profit:Target #1: John Bull (Confectioners) Limited GBP £365,747 | USD $493,759 (Fiscal year ending Dec-2021)
Target #2: John Bull Wholesale Limited: GBP £48,807 | USD $60,032 (Fiscal year ending Jun-2022)
John Bull’s retail outlet in the City Centre York, United Kingdom
John Bull’s retail outlet in Bridlington, a seaside town in Yorkshire, United Kingdom, and the base of operations for John Bull
A John Bull outlet in Scarborough, a seaside town and tourist destination in the United Kingdom
The gift shop at the factory outlet in Bridlington, where all of John Bull’s confectionary is produced. The colorful confectionary is sold in jars and different visually appealing shapes, such as the chocolate fish. 

Buyer/Acquirer: The Serious Sweet Company Limited

Company Information

Buyer: The Serious Sweet Company Limited
Location (Office):Harrogate, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Industry: Confectionary
Type: Privately owned
Managing Director:Robert Nicholas Whitehead
Founded: 2012
Employees: 18 (Self-published on LinkedIn)
Company Mission: To provide high-quality and rich classic English confectionary products

Product Information

Products: Single serving and party packs sold directly to customers online and in bulk to distributors
Toffee – Flavored confectionary made with caramelized sugar and butter
Brittles – Flat broken pieces of hard sugar candy with assorted nuts
Fudge – Flavored confectionary made with sugar, butter, and milk
Marshmallow – Confectionary made with sugar, water, and gelatin whipped to a solid but soft consistency
Candy Canes – Peppermint sugar sticks in white and red stripes
Caramel – Hard and brittle heated sugar candy
Honeycomb – Sugary toffee with a light, ridge, sponge-like texture
Market Reach:United Kingdom
North America
South America
Distribution ChannelsProducts sold through Serious Sweet-owned websites:
Trade Partnerships:Sainsbury’s – The second largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom, with a 14.6% share of UK supermarket sales in September 2022.
Tesco – A British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer with 4,673 locations and revenue of GBP £61.344 billion (USD $82.2 billion) in 2022
Waitrose – A brand of British supermarkets with 329 locations, founded in 1904 as Waite, Rose & Taylor.
Asda – A British supermarket chain with 633 locations, founded in 1949.
Boots – A British health and beauty retailer and pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories, including Ireland, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Thailand, and Indonesia, with 2,200 locations.
Whole Foods – A subsidiary of Amazon, Whole Foods is a multinational supermarket chain with more than 500 locations.
Ocado – A British business that licenses grocery technology. It also owns a 50% share in the UK retail business, (the other 50% is owned by UK retailer Marks & Spencer). The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. 2022 revenue was GBP £2.514 billion ($3.14 billion).
BP (formerly British Petroleum) – A British multinational oil and gas company founded in 1909 with a revenue of USD $241.39 billion in 2022.
Booths – A chain of 27 high-end supermarkets in North England, founded in 1847.

Financial Information

Book Value:GBP £2,552,304 | USD $3,139,333 (June 30, 2022)
Revenue: Undisclosed
EBITDA: Undisclosed
Net Profit: GBP £344,961 | USD $424,302 (Fiscal year ending June 30, 2022)
Assorted Serious Sweet Company products are sold all over the United Kingdom through partnerships with multinational grocers like Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco.

Previous Acquisitions

  • Mr. Stanley’s London (2022) – A food products manufacturer based in London, United Kingdom. The company offers traditional fudge, honeycombs, and exquisite private-label chocolates and sweets.
  • Mighty Fine (2022) – A confectionary manufacturer based in the United Kingdom. The company offers high-end honeycomb bars made with organic ingredients.
  • Mallow & Marsh (2023) – A confectionary manufacturer based in London, United Kingdom. The company offers high-end handmade marshmallows made with organic ingredients.

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