Haitai scoops up famed gelato firm

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Haitai scoops up famed gelato firm


Haitai Confectionery and Foods has moved a step closer to becoming a global player in the premium ice cream market by acquiring Palazzo del Freddo, the world’s oldest gelato company based in Rome.

On Sunday, Haitai said it signed an acquisition contract with the 134-year-old Italian company on Saturday. Financial details, however, were not disclosed.

“The acquisition has secured us a new foundation for growth,” the company said in a statement.

The gelato brand Palazzo was established in 1880 by Giacomo Fassi and the family company became popular globally when the gelato appeared in the film “Roman Holiday,” starring Audrey Hepburn.

In 2008, Haitai bought brand operating rights of the gelato company’s Korean unit. Under its operations, Haitai introduced new gelato flavors that suit the tastes of Korean consumers. There are 63 stores in Korea, most in department stores. Outside Korea, there is only one Palazzo gelato shop - in Rome.

“The reason we acquired Palazzo is because we wanted to create a foundation so that we can enter the premium ice cream market, which is growing rapidly all over the world,” the company said. “Palazzo is of high value as a global brand in the European market.”

Haitai Confectionery and Foods foresees the premium ice cream market growing as per capita income in Korea keeps increasing and demand for healthy and natural food grows. Haitai plans to increase the number of stores in Korea to 300 by 2020 and also plans to open 200 stores overseas. The company expects sales of gelato both domestically and internationally to reach 100 billion won ($98.9 million) by 2020.

This is the first acquisition by Haitai after it acquired Crown, another local confectionery maker, in 2005. Industry sources said the acquisition of Palazzo was proposed by the Italian company. The Korean company had opened dozens of stores in a short period of time with its know-how in the retail industry, which had impressed the Italian company. Also, Palazzo headquarters had been sending officials to Korea every year.

“We’re aware the Fassi family thought it would be difficult for a family-owned company to develop the brand as a global franchise like Smoothie King or Baskin-Robbins,” said an official from Haitai.

Several Korean companies have brought global brands into the country and eventually purchased the companies that owned the brands. In July, 2012, Smoothies Korea, the Korean unit of Smoothie King, acquired the global headquarters. Fila Korea bought its Italian headquarters in 2007. Taejin International, once the importer of Louis Quatorze, bought the brand while Sungjoo International bought the German brand MCM.

BY LEE EUN-JOO, CHOI JI-YOUNG [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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