The Y50b (£381m) deal to buy United Coffee from private equity fund CapVest Equity Partners is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2012. Following the merger, United Coffee will continue to trade under the same name in all its key markets.
UCC, which last month sold its gift company, said the takeover underlined its long-term strategy to develop a global coffee business.
The family-owned firm was founded in 1933 and is now Japan's largest producer of coffee, with an annual turnover of €2.5b and more than 3,700 workers. It owns both retail and out-of-home brands, operates businesses across Asia, and runs plantations in Jamaica's renowned Blue Mountains and in Hawaii.
United Coffee, which has been under family ownership for more than 150 years, has grown into one of Europe's leading players since it was created in the Netherlands in 1818 and boasts a €422m-a-year-turnover, 1,000 staff and seven European factories producing more than 72,000 tonnes of green beans-worth of coffee products per annum. Its Kent facility roasts more than 8,000 tonnes of beans a year, making it the UK‘s largest coffee roaster.
The UK and Ireland subsidiary has also just launched the country's first customer insight club for the coffee industry.
Called[ ‘all about u',](http://www.unitedcoffeeuk.com/allaboutu/) the club is designed help operators create value, drive growth and create customer loyalty and includes access to United Coffee's Licence to Work in Coffee Service one-day barista training course - the first to be endorsed by the Academy of Food and Wine Service.
The club is open to all workers in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and pubs and aims to arm them with insights into trends, emerging geographies and categories, new product developments, packaging and pricing issues, and economic and lifestyle influences.
The site also incorporates an online system that allows customers to access and book servicing, report faults, and check on the health of their coffee machines.
"Consumers are getting more savvy about the quality of coffee in their cup. This year we'll continue see a fast growing segment of consumers willing to pay more for a decent cup of coffee, and with an increase in 2011 of consumers' daily visits to coffee outlets that's set to continue, there's a lot up for grabs," explained Elaine Higginson, managing director in the UK and Ireland.
"What we're seeing is the premiumisation of coffee and a move towards higher margin coffees that'll increasingly become a central part of future growth strategies. Good quality coffee is no longer a differentiator - it's a way of life."
More initiatives are promised from the group which relaunched the British Lyons brand in 2011 and earlier this year extended its [coffee capsule system ](http://www.campaninicapsules.com)to the out-of-home market earlier this year.
By Angela Frewin
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