Aran Candy, the Dublin-based company behind the Jelly Bean Factory, has sold a majority stake to Swedish confectionery firm Cloetta in a deal valued at €15.5m.

Cloetta has acquired a 75% stake in family-owed Aran Candy for 140m Swedish Krona (€15.5m).

Aran Candy was founded by father and son Peter and Richard Cullen in 1998. It employs 70 staff at its Blanchardstown factory. The company produces 12 million jelly beans a day, 97% of which are sold abroad.

Richard Cullen, the company's managing director, will retain a minority stake in the company following the deal and will stay on as MD. 

He said Aran Candy was debt-free and strongly profitable and had not been seeking investment or looking for a buyer when it received the approach from Cloetta. Mr Cullen said he had originally been talking to Cloetta with a view to producing and selling Jelly Bean Factory jelly beans for the Swedish company.

"I met them in February. They visited the factory. The loved the place, loved the efficiency and our distribution and they wanted to launch brand into Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Italy".

After the visit Cloetta made an approach to buy a stake in Aran Candy and the two companies opened negotiations.

Mr Cullen said Cloetta will give Aran distribution into new markets. Aran Candy hopes to double production out of Ireland and is in talks about leasing a new facility to expand its operations here.

Cloetta makes a range of products popular in continental Europe, including Läkerol losenges and Sportlife chewing gum . It also produces Chewits for the Irish and British markets.