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UPDATE 1-Coca-Cola HBC to acquire 30% stake in Italy's Caffè Vergnano

(Adds Coca-Cola HBC CEO’s comments, background)

MILAN, June 28 (Reuters) - Soft drink bottler Coca-Cola HBC has signed a deal to acquire a 30% stake in Casa Del Caffè Vergnano and become the Italian coffee roaster’s exclusive distributor outside Italy.

The agreement follows a similar accord signed in 2018 between global coffee group JAB and Italian roaster Illycaffe, which allowed the Italian coffee maker to exploit JAB’s powerful distribution network to reach more clients and channels.

The deal announced on Monday will allow Coca-Cola HBC, which is 23% owned by Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co, to address a wider range of consumer tastes, the bottler said in a statement, adding that espresso specialist Caffè Vergnano was complementary to its offer of Costa Coffee products.

“With Caffè Vergnano, we are well-positioned to build a total coffee portfolio that caters for a diverse range of consumer preferences,” Coca-Cola HBC Chief Executive Zoran Bogdanovic said.

Bogdanovic added that the bottler had worked with Coca-Cola in the deal with the Italian roaster.

In a separate statement, Caffè Vergnano said that, with Coca-Cola HBC as a new strategic partner, it would accelerate its international growth plans.

The Italian roaster’s marketing and export chief, Carolina Vergnano, told Italian daily newspaper Corriere that the partnership with the bottler would give the group the possibility to fund the opening of a third plant in Piedmont, in Northern Italy.

The family-owned company, one of the oldest coffee roasters in Italy, with roots dating back to 1882, and which makes traditional espresso in various blends, packages and formats, reported sales of 94 million euros ($112 million) in 2019, according to the latest available data from the local chamber of commerce. ($1 = 0.8376 euro) (Reporting by Elisa Anzolin and Francesca Landini; Editing by Agnieszka Flak and Paul Simao)

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