Maple Leaf Bakery UK added to its growing UK empire with the £18.75 million acquisition of premium breads supplier La Fornaia this week, announcing plans to expand the London-based business.

Maple Leaf managing director Peter Maycock welcomed the deal: "La Fornaia is a great business that we have admired for some years. We are delighted to have a chance to work with its fantastic and innovative products and top-class people, as a part of Maple Leaf UK."

The deal follows several months of negotiations with La Fornaia chief executive and majority shareholder Peter Baker, according to Maple Leaf’s strategy and marketing director Guy Hall. Following the deal, Maple Leaf UK, which now owns a variety of speciality bakeries in the UK, as well as the New York Bagels brand, will be "looking for scale opportunities to expand across the whole of the group", Hall explained.

Maple Leaf UK does not plan changes to the 300-strong workforce at La Fornaia, although Peter Baker is leaving the company following the sale.

Maple Leaf would expand La Fornaia, Hall said. He explained: "The speciality bread market is growing and we will be adding extra capacity at the site or looking for space for additional units in the south of England."

La Fornaia currently operates from a 54,000sq ft bakery in Park Royal, London, producing brands including Duchy Originals and Loyd Grossman, as well as supermarket own-label. It bakes a wide range of premium quality and hand-crafted breads, with annual sales of approximately £23m, to major retailers and foodservice firms across the UK and Europe.

The deal comes as Maple Leaf completes the integration of French Croissant Company and Avance, which it acquired in December, into its group. These two businesses are now known as Maple Leaf Park Royal and Maple Leaf Maidstone, Hall explained.

After that deal, Maple Leaf UK had indicated that, following a raft of recent acquisitions in the UK in 2006, including the former Harvestime bakery in Walsall, it would only consider "really exceptional opportunities". Hall said: "If we had not gone for La Fornaia, it may have gone forever. You have to seize opportunities, as they come up infrequently."

Maple Leaf UK already had a £90m turnover and 1,000 employees. Maple Leaf UK is a division of Canada Bread Company, which is in turn 88% owned by Canadian food giant Maple Leaf Foods.

Richard Lan, president and chief executive of Canada Bread said: "This acquisition will significantly expand our presence in the high-end artisan bread market and broadens the portfolio of products we can supply to our customers."