Montreal

Laura Secord owned again by Canadians

Candy icon Laura Secord is back in Canadian hands, Quebec-based chocolatier Nutriart Inc. confirmed riday.

Candy icon Laura Secord is back in Canadian hands, Quebec-based chocolatier Nutriart Inc. confirmed Friday.

Nutriart bought the nearly 100-year-old brand from U.S. private equity investors for nearly $20 million.

Jean and Jacques Leclerc, Nutriart's owners, said the move will allow the company to substantially increase its chocolate production in Quebec City.

About 25 jobs will be created in the coming weeks at Nutriart's plant in the provincial capital. The plant has the latest Swiss equipment for chocolate production, Nutriart said.

Laura Secord, founded in 1913 and named after a heroine of the War of 1812, has more than 1,000 employees at 128 retail stores in seven provinces. Annual sales are about $80 million.

In addition to increasing chocolate production, the purchase will allow Nutriart to produce some finished goods for sale in Laura Secord stores, the company said.

"The innovation, production capacity and distribution of Nutriart, combined with Laura Secord's strong brand, will create a perfect marriage," said Jean Leclerc, Laura Secord's new president.

Jacques Leclerc, president of Nutriart, said Laura Secord products have great taste, but the company plans to develop products with a high percentage of antioxidant-rich cocoa and containing fruit such as cranberries and blueberries "to help create a healthy product."

The brothers own Nutriart, which was part of the family's 105-year-old cookie business, Biscuits Leclerc Ltd., until last summer. Biscuits Leclerc is not involved in the purchase.

Laura Secord had been under foreign ownership since 1983. The latest owners were U.S. equity investors Gordon Brothers Group LLC and EG Capital Group. Gordon Brothers put the chain up for sale after trying to cut costs and modernize its image as a favourite of older Canadians.

With files from The Canadian Press

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