News Money Men Put Faith In Buoyant Pet Trade

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Money men put faith in buoyant pet trade
13th October 2015

By Sandra Pearce

Big investors are demonstrating clear confidence in the UK pet industry, judging by a raft of private equity investment this year, the latest being pet food manufacturer Forthglade.

Piper Private Equity, a London investment business that specialises in consumer brands with a turnover of £5m to £25m, has poured £6m into the Devon-based natural pet food manufacturer.

Gerard Lovell, joint managing director of Forthglade, said: “Although we were approached by other potential investors, Piper demonstrated the value it will bring to our brand and has already had a significant impact on the business. It was this, combined with the team’s undeniable passion for creating brand legends, that set Piper apart from other investors.

“The Forthglade business has come a long way over the last five years.  As a company we’ve invested heavily to support the growth of the business. These investments along with the dedication from our team, and the support from the trade, have enabled Forthglade to flourish. We’re thrilled that the Piper team share our vision for the future.”

Libby Gibson, who co-founded Piper, said: “We approached Forthglade having seen how passionately customers and, most importantly their pets, responded to its products. We believe there is a significant market opportunity to develop Forthglade into a household name and become the leading natural pet food brand for happy and healthy pets.”

At the beginning of September, natural pet food manufacturer Lily’s Kitchen received a growth capital investment from Catterton, a leading American consumer-focused private equity group.

Connecticut-based Catterton specialises in leveraged buyouts, recapitalisations, and growth capital investments in middle-market companies, and its investment in Lily’s Kitchen, worth ‘several millions of pounds’ according to the Sunday Times, will be used to support the growth and expansion of the brand into ‘key domestic and international markets’.

Catterton has more than US$4 billion currently under management and a 26-year track record in building high-growth companies across a wide range of consumer categories. Earlier in the year, Catterton also invested in Yorkshire-based Wagg Foods.

Richard Page, MD of Wagg, said: “Wagg has brought in a new equity investor to support its growth ambition. Management remains a significant investor in the company.”

Wagg Foods has just started work on a new 100,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art distribution centre and offices near its current headquarters, outside Thirsk, which will enable it to double the size of its business. The new facility will be up and running for next summer.

According to Kantar data, Wagg is the UK’s number one dry dog food and Harringtons maintains its place as the fastest-growing dry pet food brand. The management structure at Wagg remains the same, and the family-run business is pursuing the same strategy of growth and expansion.

But it’s not just the pet food sector that is being seen as a good investment opportunity.

In August, London-based Rutland Partners announced it had backed a management-buyout of the Gardman Group. Peterborough-based Gardman, which was founded in 1992, supplies wild bird care products, tooling, lighting and gardening sundries to the garden sector.

Later that month, online retailer MedicAnimal and its sister brands, Pet-supermarket and Petmeds, was bought by Forward Dimension Capital, which describes itself as ‘a different type of private equity firm’ that ‘focuses primarily on small to medium-sized UK based companies that have achieved profitability’.

And in June, microchip pet product specialist SureFlap was bought by Allflex, a world leader in livestock intelligence owned by funds advised by BC Partners, a leading European private equity firm.

For others, investment has come through Dragons Den. Last month, Tony Garlick and Steve Shickell pitched their Magloc dog lead connector to the investors and received a £100,000 investment from Nick Jenkins.