Lavazza buys control of Kicking Horse Coffee

Old World coffee giant Lavazza is buying control of Kicking Horse Coffee, the company known for its cheekily named blends that can trace its roots to a garage in the Rocky Mountains.

The deal announced Wednesday values the Invermere, B.C., company at $215 million and gives Italy’s Lavazza an 80 per cent stake in the coffee bean roaster.

Elana Rosenfeld, who co-founded Kicking Horse in 1996 with Leo Johnson equipped with little more than a roaster, said the partnership is an ideal fit.

“They come from Italy,” Rosenfeld said in an interview.

“To me, being in the coffee business, they’re like Mecca or Jerusalem. They’ve always been in my coffee conscious.”

Lavazza, which is acquiring the interest from private equity fund Swander Pace Capital, called Kicking Horse one of the “local jewels” it was looking for.

Kicking Horse, with about 110 employees, will still be run independently, said Rosenfeld, who will keep the remaining 20 per cent stake and stay on as CEO. Lavazza CEO Antonio Baravalle will become chairman.

Baravalle said in a statement that Kicking Horse, which offers distinct blends like Kick Ass, Smart Ass and Hoodoo Jo, is a leader in the fast-growing fair trade, organic market that fits well with Lavazza’s portfolio.

In recent years, Lavazza has also bought Carte Noire in France and Denmark’s Merrild as part of its acquisition strategy.

This latest deal comes after years of double-digit growth for Kicking Horse as it has expanded into the U.S. Rosenfeld said overall sales have tripled since 2012.

She said the deal could broaden Kicking Horse’s reach since Lavazza is already selling in some 90 countries, though there are no plans to expand the actual number of blends beyond the 12 they already offer.

Rosenfeld said she’s most excited by the expertise Lavazza will bring to the company.

“We have 20 years of experience, they have 120 years of experience,” said Rosenfeld. “Certainly my roasting and sourcing team and even the maintenance team are pretty excited about that Italian expertise.”

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