ONE of the top ten dairy groups in the world has bought Wensleydale Dairy Products for £23million.

The Wensleydale operation is one of the most iconic Yorkshire businesses with two facilities in North Yorkshire employing more than 210 people.

Saputo already owns Cathedral City and Davidstow cheddars and the company's Chief Executive, Lino A. Saputo said: “Wensleydale Dairy Products is home to an immense amount of passion, care, and tradition.

“Not only is it a well-established British business with high-quality products and award-winning cheeses, but our corporate cultures are well-aligned, and I’m delighted to welcome the entire team into the Saputo family.”

The deal is expected to close in a few weeks.

The Saputo statment this morning said: "The business sources its milk from 40 local farms and uses its own unique cheesemaking starter cultures. With this strategic acquisition, Saputo is pleased to add another leading and prominent UK cheese brand to its portfolio."

The Wensleydale Creamery is an award-winning, independent traditional cheese-maker and specialist blender of cheeses. In December 2013, its Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese achieved European Protected Geographical Indication status to stop it being imitated.

Producing approximately 4,000 tonnes of cheese, and operating one of the top tourist destinations in the Yorkshire Dales, it is a major provider of rural jobs, contributing £12m to the local economy annually. The company has so far declined to issue a statement about the deal.

Saputo is also the top dairy processor in Australia, and the second largest in Argentina. In the USA, Saputo ranks among the top three cheese producers and is one of the largest producers of extended shelf-life and cultured dairy products. Saputo is the largest manufacturer of branded cheese in the UK and a top manufacturer of dairy spreads. Saputo products are sold in several countries under market-leading brands, as well as private label brands.