Barentz will establish a "centre of excellence for nutritional excellence and concept development" at Vitablend's Dutch headquarters to add to its existing R&D facilities dedicated to the meat and bakery industries. Vitablend's portfolio includes blends of vitamin E, butylated hydroxy anisole, ascorbyl palmitate, rosemary extract powder, citric acid and other ingredients. "Barentz seeks to become one of the major ingredients players in Europe and this acquisition is another step toward that goal," Barentz spokesperson Rinus Heemskerk told NutraIngredients. But a spokesperson at a major vitamins and minerals supplier said the takeover was "a great surprise as antioxidants is the last direction I thought they would move in." Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. It is Barentz's first significant entry into the antioxidant area and forms part of an aggressive acquisitions and joint ventures policy the company has pursued in recent years. Its reach has spread throughout Europe and beyond and it has a presence in 25 countries. The company, which recorded sales of €390m in 2006, has established sourcing arrangements in China and India that would bring raw material cost savings to Vitablend, Heemsderk noted. The majority of Vitablend's portfolio consists of tailor-made vitamin, mineral and amino acid blends that are used to 'protect' shelf-life and boost the nutrient profile of baked goods, cereals, beverages, infant foods and dietary supplements. Spokesperson Cees Petersen said Vitablend had captured a market-leading 30 per cent of the European pre-mix blend 'protection' market against players such as Cognis, Nutrilose and Fortitech . The €60m company recorded 20-25 per cent growth for six years and expects that to double to 50 per cent now that it can access Barentz's burgeoning distribution network. "This is an exciting deal for Vitablend," said Petersen. "Particularly as the culture of Barentz is to retain the independence of the companies they invest in. So while we will be able to take advantage of their resources and position in the market, we will retain a good portion of our independence. This is very important to us while obviously being a very important strategic addition to Barentz's operations." Heemsderk said the acquisition would assist Barentz to meet the increasingly technical ingredient requirements of its European and international food-based customers and was necessary if the company was to maintain the annual 15 per cent turnover growth it had notched in recent years. "Our food customers are more demanding than ever and we need to offer them more and Vitablend will allow us to do that," Heemskerk said. Barentz began distributing ingredients in Europe in the 1950s but has ramped up its operations since the turn of the century with a number of acquisitions and joint ventures. Its last acquisition came in 2007 when it purchased Dutch soy and lupin specialist, MDB Twello, which targets the bakery, meat, ready meal and healthy food markets.