General Mills is expanding its pet food empire across the Atlantic with the acquisition of a high-end Belgian dog and cat food company, Edgard & Cooper.

Founded in 2016, Edgard & Cooper had more than $100 million in sales last year in 13 countries. The sale price was not disclosed.

The brand holds many similarities to Blue Buffalo, the pet food brand General Mills bought in 2018, including a compelling founder story and focus on ingredient transparency — including fresh meat.

"More natural ingredients, better quality ingredients is the trend all over the world," said Jon Nudi, president of pet, international and foodservice at Golden Valley-based General Mills. "We think the values are right, we think it'll allow us to grow aggressively in pet in a market that, frankly, we probably wouldn't have been in for some time."

After scanning the globe for its next acquisition, Nudi and his team flew to Belgium in January to meet with the company. Over Central American tapas at a restaurant owned by a founder's family member, the sides found a lot to like about each other.

"They weren't necessarily looking to sell," Nudi said. "But our cultures really clicked. We talked about why we bought Blue Buffalo, and it really resonated with them."

Co-founders Koen Bostoen, Louis Chalabi and Jürgen Degrande will continue running the company from Kortrijk, Belgium. There are no plans yet to bring the brand to the U.S.

"We're excited to join Team General Mills and continue doing what Edgard & Cooper is passionate about — making better dog and cat food with real ingredients that pets love and pet owners feel good about," Bostoen said in a statement. "Combining our brand's natural positioning and commercial capabilities with General Mills' marketing and supply chain expertise, we're ready to accelerate Edgard & Cooper's growth."

The acquisition underscores General Mills' commitment to the global pet food market, which is growing faster than many of its human food categories.

Blue Buffalo recently expanded into China, but breaking into Europe's $25 billion pet food market was going to be difficult without an acquisition since each country has its own challenges and opportunities, Nudi said. Edgard & Cooper is one of few high-end European pet brands that has found success in multiple countries.

While pet food sales have slowed for General Mills amid higher prices for already high-priced products relative to other brands, Nudi said, "The long-term trend has not changed, that more pet parents are treating their pets like family. Still, we have to justify why it's worth paying a premium."