Russell Stover, the US family-owned chocolate maker famed for one of its product’s appearance in the feature film Forrest Gump, has sold its business to Swiss rival Lindt & Spruengli.
It represents the third time the Missouri-based business, which has revenues of $500 million (€367.0 million), has changed to a new family’s ownership.
Lindt, controlled by a branch of the founding Sprungli family, anticipates the acquisition will see its US turnover reach more than $1.5 billion by 2015.
Lindt issued a press releases on Monday confirming the deal, but did not reveal the price paid. The Financial Timesreported the duo had previously discussed a figure close to $1.4 billion.
Russell Stover is currently the number one manufacturer of boxed chocolates in the US, behind Hershey’s and third-generation family business Mars.
The deal gives Lindt a new range of products including gift pralines and products for popular holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
Lindt chairman and chief executive Ernst Tanner said the acquisition was the “biggest and most important strategic acquisition” in Lindt’s history.
Lindt, best known for their Lindor chocolate balls and Easter bunnies, sales grew 6% in the first half of 2014 to 1.2 billion Swiss francs (€983 million), and it’s expected that the acquisition of Russell Stover could increase sales by a further 6-8% by the year’s end.
The company’s products are popular gifts in the US, and were a feature of the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, in which the lead character, played by Tom Hanks, uttered the iconic line: “My momma always said life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get.”
Russell Stover started life as Mrs Stover's Bungalow Candies, founded by Russell and Clara Stover in the kitchen of their home in Denver, Colorado in 1924 – they went on to open one of their first factories in Kansas City, Missouri.
Clara Stover sold the business to the Wards in 1960 – six years after the death of her husband.
Under Ward family ownership, Russell Stover bought chocolate makers Whitman's and Pangburn's.
Co-presidents Tom, 57, and Scott Ward, 56, currently head the firm, having taken over from their father Louis in 1993. The company will remain headquartered in Missouri.