Gluten-free biscuit manufacturer Northumbrian Fine Foods has been acquired by European own-label firm Biscuit International from CriSeren Foods.

Northumbrian (NFF) produces the Prewett’s range of branded products and also supplies own-label gluten-free and milk-free supermarket biscuits. Employing 225 people from its site in the Team Valley in Gateshead, its annual turnover topped £27m in 2017.

Innovation is a key focus of the business, which has launched more than 100 products into retail in the past 12 months.

Senior management at NFF will remain unchanged, and Biscuit International said it would benefit from the team’s experience to help drive growth in the European market. NFF senior managers have also invested in Biscuit International equity.

Biscuit International said the deal would give it access to NFF’s innovation and production capabilities to tap growth opportunities on the free-from biscuit market. European sales of gluten- and milk-free products have been forecast by Euromonitor to grow 60% in the next five years to  £8.7bn.

The European firm, which owns Poult in France, Banketgroep in the Netherlands and A&W in Germany, plans to offer NFF products to new markets in Europe, while reinforcing its presence in the UK and benefiting from NFF’s relationship with UK supermarkets and brands. Biscuit International produces biscuits and waffles from 12 factories in Europe. It employs 1,200 people and generated sales of €300m in 2017.

“This acquisition is great news for NFF and provides the platform for us to expand into Europe where we see significant opportunities for developing the gluten-free biscuit sector,” said NFF managing director Stewart McLelland.

“Biscuit International are a forward-thinking business and their plans for NFF will further enhance our position as the UK’s number one gluten- and milk-free biscuit manufacturer.”

Biscuit International plans to support the future growth of NFF with investment in the operational fabric of the building and the production capabilities.

The European company is owned by French private equity firm Qualium Investissement, the company’s management team, and other French and international institutional investors.