Groupe Aeroplan Inc. has gained a U.S. foothold with the purchase of customer loyalty company Carlson Marketing as the company pursues more international growth.

The company, which started out as Air Canada’s frequent flyer program, said it paid $188 million for the Minneapolis-based customer-loyalty company that also has a presence in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

CEO Rupert Duchesne said the acquisition gives Aeroplan a substantial source of revenue and diverse clients around the world.

Aeroplan had been looking for a presence in the United States since 2005, Duchesne said, and had previously considered small scale acquisitions and investments in frequent flyer programs in the United States.

“The only logical way in, rather than trying to build something up from scratch itself, was to buy the market leader.”

Aeroplan said Carlson Marketing will be run as a separate division from Aeroplan’s other businesses.