Headshot of Diya Talwar.

Beauty Dealmakers Bullish on Hair Care M&A

Vestar’s Diya Talwar was recently featured in The Deal offering her views on recent trends in haircare M&A.

Regarding brands now catering to multicultural communities, Diya said “That’s a long term, sustainable tailwind in haircare. We're seeing underrepresented demographics and hair types such as textured hair, curly hair and frizzy hair getting more attention.” The article also noted that Vestar is evaluating investment opportunities in the category.

Visit The Deal to read the entire article (subscription required).


Headshot Mike Vaupen

Vestar invested in Nox Health to help you get a good night’s sleep

PE Hub
Vestar invested in Nox Health to help you get a good night’s sleep
The investment fits Vestar’s strategy of improving health outcomes, lowering costs and enhancing patient experience.
By Aaron Weitzman
Published December 15, 2022

 

Vestar Capital Partners recently made a significant minority strategic growth investment in Nox Health, a one-stop, holistic solution helping to identify, address and resolve sleep issues across the globe.

PE Hub spoke with Michael Vaupen, managing director at the New York-based firm to talk about what enticed Vestar to the Atlanta-based sleep health company, how the deal making process went and the plans to grow and scale the asset.

Vaupen said that Vestar was attracted to Nox for several reasons, with the first being the market opportunity, as sleep health is a “large and substantially underserved market with durable growth drivers.”

“Second, Nox’s solutions are well-positioned against this attractive market backdrop,” he said. “The company has built a differentiated portfolio of proprietary medical device IP, advanced software and analytics, and technology-enabled care management solutions which support the delivery of sleep care across the continuum of providers, payers and patient populations.”

The investment is well-aligned to Vestar’s thematic focus of solutions that improve health outcomes, lower costs and enhance patient experience, according to Vaupen.

The firm also sees many tailwinds that will help this investment.

“Aging demographics, increasing awareness of sleep health and an ongoing shift towards home-based testing will drive steady growth and demand for sleep diagnostics globally,” said Vaupen. “In addition, there is a growing body of clinical evidence strongly linking poor sleep health with chronic disease conditions, including hypertension and diabetes. As US healthcare continues to shift towards value-based care, we believe plan sponsors and at-risk providers will continue to seek ways to lower costs and improve outcomes within their managed populations – sleep care is playing an increasingly important role.”

He also added that historically, sleep disorders have been significantly underdiagnosed and therapy compliance rates have been low due to a fragmented and uncoordinated patient experience in sleep care.

“Nox’s patient-centric approach to comprehensive sleep care management, leveraging virtual care and home testing technology, results in a more seamless patient experience and leads to demonstrably better health outcomes and lower costs,” he said.

He noted that the Nox management team has built a “solid foundational platform that has delivered consistent and impressive growth through the years,” and that the capital from Vestar will help accelerate a number of organic growth initiatives.

“Those include development of the company’s sleep diagnostic devices and technology, as well as commercial team expansion to drive further adoption of Nox’s value-based care management services within employers and health plans,” explained Vaupen. “We also see an opportunity to augment Nox’s solution offering through strategic acquisitions.”

Despite the challenging and choppy deal environment this year, Vaupen said that the firm continued to “pick spots and focus on opportunities where we can leverage Vestar’s deep network, relationships and prior investment experience to bring differentiated value-add to a growth thesis.”

“Nox met many of those characteristics which allowed us to ‘lean into’ getting a deal done,” he said.


Headshot Norm Alpert

PE Hub Podcast: How PE pros are handling higher interest rates and the slowdown in dealmaking

In this first episode of the PE Hub miniseries, Private Markets and the End of Cheap Money, reporters talks to dealmakers from Corsair, OEP, Vestar and more to hear how sponsors are coping with the higher price of ‘L’ in LBOs.

Central banks around the world have been raising interest rates to combat inflation, making borrowing more expensive for everyone. That includes private equity firms, which for years have enjoyed historically low borrowing costs to finance leveraged buyouts. So how are private equity firms copying with the end of cheap money? To find out, reporters and editors across several PEI Group titles have spent the last few months speaking to dozens of industry participants to get their perspectives.

In this first episode of the five-part podcast miniseries, Private Markets and the End of Cheap Money, we look at how higher interest rates are playing out in private equity transactions and why certain areas of M&A (deals in the mid-market, in particular) may be facing outcomes different from what you might expect.

Mary Kathleen Flynn, editor-in-chief of PE Hub, spoke with a wide range of dealmakers, including private equity firm leaders, lenders and investment bankers, about the impact of high interest rates and other factors like high inflation on PE-backed transactions.

Featured in this episode: Norm Alpert, founding partner at Vestar Capital Partners; Greg Belinfanti, senior managing director of One Equity Partners; Marc Leder, co-founder and co-CEO of Sun Capital Partners; Ignacio Jayanti, CEO of Corsair Capital; Milwood Hobbs Jr, managing director and head of North American sourcing and origination at Oaktree; Michelle Handy, managing director and head of portfolio and underwriting of First Eagle Alternative Credit’s direct lending platform; and Peg Jackson, managing director, software, internet and digital media at Stifel.

Listen here on Apple Podcasts or on the PE Hub website.


Logo for Simple Mills.

Simple Mills Appoints Sheryl O'Loughlin to Board of Directors

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Simple Mills, the company on a mission to advance the holistic health of the planet and its people through delicious, better-for-you foods, today announced the addition of CPG industry veteran, Sheryl O’Loughlin, to its Board of Directors. O’Loughlin is an accomplished entrepreneur, CEO, author, and board member bringing extensive experience leading fast-growing, innovative consumer products companies. In her new role, O’Loughlin will provide strategic counsel and guidance to help support Simple Mills in scaling the company to the next level, creating opportunity for the brand to have a greater positive impact on its mission to advance the holistic health of the planet and its people.

A seasoned leader with more than 30 years of experience scaling CPG companies, O’Loughlin previously served as the CEO of both Clif Bar & Company and REBBL, and Co-Founder and former CEO of Plum Organics. During her time at REBBL, a super herb adaptogen beverage, O’Loughlin architected a product innovation, distribution, and velocity strategy that grew revenue 23-fold and increased margins by 20 points. This growth allowed the brand to work toward a regenerative, just supply chain and donate $1 million to Not For Sale, a nonprofit dedicated to co-creating a future without human trafficking. Alongside her outstanding leadership roles, O’Loughlin shares her entrepreneurial skillset with the Simple Mills team as the former Executive Director for the Center of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of “Killing It: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Head Without Losing Your Heart.” She also has experience serving on several other notable CPG brands boards, sitting currently on the boards of PetIQ, Inc. (Nasdaq: PETQ), Miyoko’s Creamery, and S. Martinelli & Co. In this new role, O’Loughlin plans to draw on her expertise to amplify Simple Mills’ mission to pioneer the way the world eats by crafting food with purposeful ingredients intentionally selected to help advance the health of both people and planet.

“I am honored to be part of the highly-esteemed Simple Mills Board of Directors, especially on the heels of a successful growth year for the company,” said O’Loughlin. “I’m a longtime fan of the brand and particularly appreciate how Simple Mills honors the intersection of people and planetary health by utilizing nutrient-dense ingredients and adopting a unique approach to regenerative agriculture that have the potential to build healthy soil. It’s my passion to assist companies like Simple Mills in scaling their business in a way that aligns with their mission and values, while providing an example to other companies that an ethical business framework aiming to change our food system can be wildly successful. I've dedicated my time and effort to supporting talented leaders like Katlin Smith achieve their goals, and I'm thrilled at the opportunity to support the Simple Mills team on their journey to helping better the world.”

O’Loughlin joins Simple Mills Board of Directors alongside other leading experts in the space, including Amanda Steele, former Senior Vice President of Marketing at Annie’s and Numi Organic Tea; Dan O'Connell, Founder and CEO at Vestar Capital Partners; Kevin Mundt, Managing Director at Vestar Capital Partners; George Peinado, member at Hyde Park Angels; and Lew Semones former General Partner at Charlotte Capital Partners

Simple Mills better-for-you products are sold in more than 28,000 natural and conventional stores across the country. This includes national distribution with top U.S. retailers, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target, Walmart and Costco. In the last five years alone, Simple Mills has entered more than 20,000 new stores, increasing its brick-and-mortar availability by more than 300%. Aside from significant retailer growth, the brand also has a strong e-commerce presence both on Amazon and its own website. To learn more about Simple Mills, its commitment to advancing regenerative agriculture through ever-growing product innovations, and to find a retailer near you, please visit www.simplemills.com.

About Simple Mills

Founded in 2012, Simple Mills is a leading provider of better-for-you crackers, cookies, snack bars and baking mixes made with clean, nutrient-dense ingredients and nothing artificial, ever. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the company has disrupted center-aisle grocery categories to become the #1 baking mix brand, #1 cracker brand, #1 cookie brand in the natural channelwith distribution in over 28,000 stores nationwide. Its mission is to advance the holistic health of the planet and its people by positively impacting the way food is made. For more information, visit www.simplemills.com.


Logo for Simple Mills.

Vestar VII Portfolio Company Simple Mills Named One of Fast Company’s 2022 Brands That Matter

Fast Company’s 2022 Brands That Matter list recognizes companies leading on social action, sustainability, inclusivity, and fun

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Fast Company’s Brands That Matter awards program aims to get beyond corporate vision statements and management talking points, celebrating a company’s connection with its audience through cultural relevance, social impact, and clear, authentic communication.

Now in its second year, Brands That Matter has grown from 95 honorees last year to 144 in 2022. While judging applications, editorial staff looked for a clear synthesis between how the brand presents itself and how its customers perceive it. This year’s honorees are divided between 70 brands in 22 categories and our main list, which contains 74 brands that broadly fit into five themes—Community-Minded Business, Elevating the Everyday, Fun and Fandom, Mind and Body, and Spreading the Word.

All of the honorees clearly generated enthusiasm among their customers, offering a model of what other brands should be aiming for, and what a brand, at its best, can achieve.

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Mind and Body Category

These 19 brands are helping people sharpen their minds, look good, and improve their health -- BY JEFF BEER

Need to look good, feel good, or learn a new language? These Brands That Matter winners have you covered.

The brands we trust with our physical and mental well-being play a unique role in our lives. From jeans and make-up, to fitness recovery and fertility, these companies are building relationships with customers beyond the products they’re selling. As Brands That Matter honorees, the following 20 brands demonstrated a commitment to mind and body—whether that’s fighting hunger, making food more sustainable, or preventing skin cancer.

Duolingo has gamified language learning, while also finding new ways to tap into culture. On one hand, its mascot, Duo the Owl, is a TikTok star, while on the other, the brand made a free Ukrainian phrasebook for people to help refugees from that country’s war with Russia. Abercrombie not only ditched the dark mall stores and too-cool vibe for a more inclusive brand, which it baked into its products like Curve Love jeans that take into account a much more diverse variety of body types. Kindbody has worked to take fertility healthcare from a barely whispered issue into a more accessible and inclusive service for all.

Here are the brands leading the way for our mind and body.

ABERCROMBIE & FITCH

Once the domain of shirtless models and dimly lit mall stores, Abercrombie & Fitch has gone through a more recent brand revitalization. That image lift includes combining TikTok creativity and community engagement with social issues through support for The Steve Fund and fellow Brands That Matter honoree The Trevor Project, as well as smart product moves like its Curve Love denim fits, and the launch of a new performance-active brand called YPB.

ABOUT-FACE

About-Face has become a TikTok and fan favorite for fuss-free makeup that is still plenty extra—and that’s by design. Founder Ashley Frangipane, aka singer-songwriter Halsey, developed the Technicolor, texture-forward cosmetics (think chunky glitter, buttery shimmer, and glossy shine) to be as cost conscious as they are extravagant. Most of About-face’s clean, vegan products—from liquid shadow Matte Fluid Eye Paint to the super-creamy Cheek Freak Blush Balm—are priced between $12 and $18, can be easily blended out with fingers, and are designed to offer users versatility in constructing whatever look they want. Following a solid launch in January 2021 as a direct-to-consumer brand, it hit more than 500 Ulta locations and the beauty retailer’s website in June, bringing the products to a wider audience. The company also debuted the even lower-priced but equally Gen Z-savvy AF94 by Halsey line, which launched exclusively at Walmart in July. —Rachel Kim Raczka

COURSERA

Coursera has more than 100 million registered learners, and counts as partners more than 250 leading universities and industry educators—including Yale, AWS, and Microsoft—to which it offers job-relevant courses, hands-on projects, certificates, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The brand’s biggest impact had been aimed at expanding access to education for underserved communities around the world, with initiatives like the American Dream Academy. Undertaken alongside the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream, it will serve more than 200,000 underemployed people over three years. The brand has also worked with organizations in Barbados to reskill up to 120,000 pandemic-impacted workers and provide 20,000 scholarships for Barbadian women.

DUOLINGO

Duolingo brings a sense of humor to TikTok with the antics of its owl mascot, but data show it’s serious about language learning. The language learning platform finds ways to tap into culture, with a 56% boost in users studying Italian in the two days after Italy’s song won Eurovision 2021, and 40% more interest in learning Korean in the two weeks after Squid Game’s debut than in the week prior. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine driving interest in learning Ukrainian—and a 577% increase in users learning Ukrainian—Duolingo donated that ad revenue to relief organizations.

ELTAMD SKIN CARE

Long trusted as one of the best sunscreen brands under the, uh, sun, EltaMD has worked over the past year to create brand work that highlight’s lesser-known skin cancer risk. While skin cancer is often associated with fair skin, survival rates for Black Americans who contract it is much lower, and one of the most common sites of skin cancer is the bottom of the foot. Now you know.

IMPOSSIBLE FOODS

A name synonymous with plant-based meat products, Impossible has further expanded its footprint over the past year by releasing faux sausage, chicken nuggets, and pork products, while also appealing to meat eaters. According to Chicago-based analytics company Numerator, nearly 100% of Impossible Foods buyers also buy animal-derived products.

JUST EGG

The brand’s plant-based egg is made from mung beans that use 83% less land, 98% less water, and produces 93% fewer carbon emissions than conventional eggs. This year, Just Egg launched with chains like Caribou Coffee and Peet’s Coffee, and in New York City delis through fellow Brands That Matter honoree Plantega—bringing its plant-based message to breakfast sandwiches across the country.

KINDBODY

The fertility benefits provider aims to help fertility healthcare in the U.S. evolve from fragmented, inequitable, expensive, and inaccessible to the most accessible. This year, Kindbody launched at-home fertility tests for women and men, further expanding access, and more than 10,000 people attended fertility education events hosted by the brand.

LITTLE SPOON

Healthy baby-food-meets-celebrity cult brand Little Spoon has found a way to charm both parents and their little ones. Kids love the food enough to boost sales by 110% in the past year and see the company expand into older kids’ meals and snacks. Its pop cultural cache includes celeb supporters like Serena Williams, Bobbi Brown, Arianna Huffington, and Rebecca Minkoff, as well as a board game called Is This Normal that sold out with zero advertising.

OLAY

Olay has leaned into its brand muscle by helping to get more BIPOC—especially women of color—into STEM fields. Projects in the past year have included the #DecodeTheBias campaign, which sent 1,200 girls to code camp with Black Girls CODE, and a Million Women Mentors partnership, which mentored 1,000 girls interested in STEM. The brand also has committed to having no retouching or distortion of the skin in any of its U.S. ads, including content created by influencers for the brand.

POSHMARK

With more than 80 million global users, the secondhand clothing platform was acquired by South Korean tech company Naver Corp in October for $1.2 billion. In the year preceding the acquisition, the brand built out new features that allow users to shop by trends and repost items they’ve purchased, as well as giving sellers tools for real-time data on their sales and inventory. The brand also partnered with Snap to launch Poshmark Mini, a social shopping experience inside of Snapchat.

SIMPLE MILLS

This is a brand that takes the planet’s health seriously by making regenerative agriculture a central part of its supply chain in an effort to make it more mainstream. Simple Mills designed products like its Sweet Thins and Organic Seed Flour Crackers to include a diverse variety of ingredients—watermelon seed flour, for example—that create market demand for underrepresented crops to enhance agricultural biodiversity. Also, it’s building direct farmer contracts that include technical assistance and financial incentives for adopting regenerative principles.

SUMMERSALT

Summersalt has made its mission dismantling the toxic imagery around swimsuit marketing (and the negative ways it can affect body image). The brand’s products prioritize non-sexualized designs and body-positive advertising. Its “Every Body is a Summersalt Body” campaign focused on body positivity and self-confidence, featuring a diverse set of inspiring women. Participants included Olympian and registered nurse Ilona Maher, models and podcast cohosts Michaela and Hunter McGrady, best-selling novelist Candace Bushnell, WNBA All-Star Betnijah Laney, and others.

THE BODY SHOP

On the heels of the #BlackTikTokStrike, the brand launched its rejuvenated line of Body Butter in North America by engaging a diverse and talented group to develop its ad campaign, which created an original dance aimed at spreading love, body positivity, and joy. The viral dance shone a bright light on creators whose creativity and talents had been marginalized on the platform—and a month after launch, TikTok creator and campaign creative Laila Mohammad won the first-ever VMA award for best viral dance.

THE NORTH FACE

Read our cover story on how filmmaker and adventurer Jimmy Chin is helping the North Face explore important new terrain: a more diverse outdoors.

THE REALREAL

The luxury fashion consignment platform launched its Circular ReSource Lab last year to create impactful solutions to this fashion waste crisis, including the ReCollection upcycling program, in partnership with brands like Balenciaga and Stella McCartney, which turns damaged items into one-of-a-kind pieces.

THERABODY

Though it’s been around since 2009, Therabody (née Theragun) has had a transformative past couple years. The company has expanded its roster of products beyond its flagship massage gun to include everything from new devices to a CBD line. Therabody also has been opening brick-and-mortar retail stores, as well as several Reset locations, billed as “whole-body wellness centers” that feature signature massage and other therapeutic treatments, offering customers a chance to test out the latest products. These include compression therapy boots, designed for massage and post-workout recovery; a handheld facial health tool with micro-current and LED functionality, as well as cold and hot therapy; and a burgeoning period pain relief program delivered via the company’s PowerDot Device. Therabody also has been giving back, including partnerships with Red, to donate 2% of the purchase price of special red devices and certain CBD products to health-focused programs. —Danica Lo

VIRGIN PULSE

People rarely get excited about a health management and benefits navigation platform, but Virgin Pulse has managed to buck that trend and get users engaged. Used by leading companies and national health plans, the company is focused on helping people build health behaviors via its Homebase for Health, which offers live coaching and programs on everything from mindfulness and nutrition to musculoskeletal health and quitting tobacco. By Virgin Pulse’s accounting, 73% of users developed positive daily habits in 2021, and its use of behavioral science, incentives, and personalization led to sustained, continuous engagement of 50%, compared with the industry average of about 5%.

QUAKER

The PepsiCo-owned brand worked over the past year to expand its Quaker Qrece program, which targets malnutrition in Latin America through donations of oat-based food products, and has helped more than 10,000 children in Mexico and Guatemala, aiming to reach 50,000 kids by 2025. The work also has attracted more than 22 million media impression and 340 million unique visitors to its website.

This article is part of Fast Company’s 2022 Brands That Matter awards. Explore the full list of brands whose success has come from embodying their purpose in a way that resonates with their customers.

 


Logo for PetHonesty.

'Braced for growth': How Austin startup Pet Honesty has become a national brand

'Braced for growth': How Austin startup Pet Honesty has become a national brand
Austin American Statesman
By Lori Hawkins
Published September 2022

Four years ago, entrepreneurs Ben and Camille Arneberg created their company, Pet Honesty, as an e-commerce outlet to sell natural pet supplements.

The Austin-based startup grew by selling its pet vitamins on its website as well as on sites including Amazon.com and Chewy.com. During the coronavirus pandemic, a sales boost came from people adopting pets and spending more time at home with them. Now the company is taking a big leap, with a new CEO, a new downtown Austin headquarters and a major launch into its first brick-and-mortar retail venture by entering 1,500 Petco locations nationwide.

"Pet Honesty has built a loyal and growing online following of health-conscious pet parents who seek products made with natural ingredients," said CEO Richard Greenberg. "There has been interest from retailers for the last couple years, and the company wanted to be very patient. Petco was the perfect fit."

'Large growth opportunity'

Greenberg said company research has found that 29% of pets are given supplements. "There remains a large growth opportunity," he said. "We have a pretty diverse customer base," he said. "It's that proactive pet parent. Often times they're giving their children a multivitamin, they might be taking a supplement themselves. They're looking to treat their four-legged children the same as they treat their two-legged children."

The company has high-profile displays and interactive surveys with QR codes at Petco stores to help pet owners and employees determine the most suitable supplements, Greenberg said.

Pet Honesty's supplements include its Multivitamin 10-in-1, which the company says supports overall health in adult dogs, as well as a range of supplements that target joint, immune, digestive and skin health for both cats and dogs. The company does not disclose where its supplements are produced, but Greenberg said they are made in the United States.

Retail prices for a jar of 90 supplements sold online and in stores begin at $26.99, with special formulations and maximum strengths ranging between $28.99 to $40.99. One jar would typically supply a small to medium dog for three months, according to the company.

Greenberg joined the company this year following a majority investment in Pet Honesty by New York-based private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Vestar Capital Partners. has a background in investing in the pet food industry and consumer brands. The firm previously owned Big Heart Pet Brands, whose products include Meow Mix, Milk-Bone and Natural Balance. Vestar's current investments include Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods, a manufacturer of plant-based foods; Simple Mills, a organic cracker, cookie and baking mix brand, and Presence Marketing, a national sales broker that represents natural and organic food, beverage and personal care brands.

Pet Honesty founder Ben Arneberg will continue to serve as a director on the company's board, and he and his family will retain their "significant investment" in the company, Vestar said. "We have been fortunate to find the right partner in Vestar, which remains committed to our business strategy and will help provide the financial backing, indust1y relationships and catego1y expertise needed to build on our momentum," Areberg said.

Greenberg has spent the past two decades as a consumer product goods executive, most recently servicing as chief commercial officer of Sovos, which had an initial public offering in fall of 2021. Sovos' brands include Rao's Homemade, Noosa Yoghurt, Birch Benders and Michael Angelo's.

'The company is growing'

Greenberg said Pet Honesty will be looking for additional brick-and-mortar retail opportunities.

As the 40-person company is ramping up for this new wave of growth, it has moved into a new headquarters in downtown Austin at 211 E. Seventh St. "The size of our staff has doubled in the last 12 months," Greenberg said." The company is growing and is really braced for growth as we launch into retail." The downtown move is intended to boost company culture. "We love the energy and vibe of downtown that it provides," Greenberg said. "We are a high energy, passionate company and building our culture is a big part of building momentum for the company."


Logo for Simple Mills.

Simple Mills Reports Significant Post-Pandemic Growth, Doubling Retail Sales Since 2019

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Simple Mills, the company on a mission to advance the holistic health of the planet and its people through delicious, better-for-you foods, today announced it experienced its most momentous growth in company history from 2019 to 2022. Simple Mills more than doubled retail sales during this timeframe. The brand was originally founded to help make clean, nutrient-dense foods easy and accessible, but evolved its mission in 2021 to include planetary health as an equally critical component, making a promise that all future innovation will advance regenerative agriculture.

“I started Simple Mills in 2012 with a brazen vision of helping people feel better through purposeful, nutrient-dense food that easily fit into their lives and didn’t ask them to sacrifice flavor for health,” said Simple Mills founder and CEO, Katlin Smith. “But as the business grew, I realized human health can’t truly exist without considering the health of our planet. I became interested in regenerative agriculture and how we can use food as a force for both human and planetary health. We took a significant leap in evolving our mission and making a commitment that 100% of product innovation moving forward will help advance regenerative farming principles – but what’s most exciting is how consumers and retailers are responding. We’re experiencing growth and recognition unlike anything we’ve seen since our founding and are excited to continue amplifying our people and planet-forward mission in 2023 and beyond.”

As consumers increasingly recognize the impact their food choices have on their own health as well as that of the planet, Simple Mills has become a staple in millions of American households. To pioneer the way the world eats through revolutionary food design, Simple Mills created three product innovation pathways: 1) design for diverse ingredients, 2) direct trade with farmers, and 3) invest in regional adoption of regenerative agriculture principles for key ingredients. One hundred percent of its product innovation now advances regenerative agriculture through at least one of these pathways. The brand’s evolved mission and commitment to personal and planetary health is evident in new product launches, including new Nut Butter Stuffed Sandwich Cookies, smartly sweetened with organic coconut sugar from perennial trees that thrive within agroforestry systems and Organic All Purpose Baking Mix, which features a diverse, nutrient-dense mix of chestnut, almond, buckwheat, and flax flours.

The company is also strengthening its work with farmers and suppliers to provide greater transparency to on-farm practices through a new Regenerative Agriculture Engagement Tool. This proprietary interactive platform gathers farm-level data from suppliers about specific practices used by farmers throughout the supply chain. It also helps visualize trends across regions and crops, while serving as a farmer-forward resource by prompting reflection on ways growers are already implementing regenerative principles on their land and highlighting opportunities to expand their approach in the future.

“Our commitment to a product design framework that connects our regenerative agriculture initiatives to our innovation pipeline is at the heart of our vision,” said Christina Skonberg, Director of Sustainability & Mission. “The three innovation pathways guide our product development process, and our programming allows us to gain visibility to the farm-level practices and associated impacts to our value chains, which is critically important for creating products that are better for consumers and the planet. We’re especially excited about our improved Regenerative Agriculture Engagement Tool, as it’s an incredible way to gain insight and visibility into ingredients throughout our supply chain, identify partnership opportunities to scale regenerative principles, and serve as a resource to farmers and suppliers who are interested in deepening their commitment to the health of the land.”

To support its robust innovation pipeline, Simple Mills recently opened a new innovation hub, called Sunworks, in Mill Valley, Calif. The space sits in a geographical epicenter for innovation and disruptive design, and serves as a new destination for creativity. It houses the Innovation, R&D, and Sustainability teams alongside Smith. Many of the brand’s farm partners and agricultural thought partners are also located in California, giving the team opportunities to learn from leaders in the agricultural movement on a regular basis while also providing a place to host farmers, media, and industry events. In addition to the Sunworks office, Simple Mills has seen powerful growth across its workforce, with 100% growth between 2020 and 2022, reaching nearly 100 employees. With 62% of employees having been hired since the start of COVID-19, the brand has fostered an inclusive hybrid work environment with employees spanning 17 additional states across the country.

Simple Mills crackers, cookies, bars and baking mixes are sold in more than 28,000 natural and conventional stores across the country. This includes national distribution with top U.S. retailers, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target, Walmart, and Costco. In the last five years alone, Simple Mills has entered more than 20,000 new stores, increasing its brick-and-mortar availability by more than 300%. Aside from significant retailer growth, the brand also has a strong e-commerce presence both on Amazon and its own website.

To learn more about Simple Mills, its commitment to advancing regenerative agriculture through innovations, and to find a retailer near you, please visit www.simplemills.com.

About Simple Mills

Founded in 2012, Simple Mills is a leading provider of better-for-you crackers, cookies, snack bars and baking mixes made with clean, nutrient-dense ingredients and nothing artificial, ever. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the company has disrupted center-aisle grocery categories to become the #1 baking mix brand, #1 cracker brand, #1 cookie brand in the natural channelwith distribution in over 28,000 stores nationwide. Its mission is to advance the holistic health of the planet and its people by positively impacting the way food is made. For more information, visit www.simplemills.com.

1. SPINS Data, $ Sales, Latest 52 Weeks Ending 9/4/22

Contacts

Rachel Kay Public Relations
Nikole Norin
949-433-9570
[email protected]


Headshot of Nikhil Bhat.

Despite Tech Sector Tumble, Big Data Beckons

Despite Tech Sector Tumble, Big Data Beckons
Mergers & Acquisitions Magazine
By Rich Blake
Published July 2022

Following the technology market rout during the spring, the growth-oriented private markets licked their wounds and picked their spots.

One of the leading subsectors deemed poised for expansion, regardless of on economic slowdown? Data analytics.

"Companies across the board are compelled to find a competitive edge to drive growth and profitability, especially in challenging times," says Nikhil Bhat, a managing director at Vester Capital and who helps lead the private equity firm's business and technology services investments.

"Harnessing big data is a source of competitive advantage." he says.

From asset management to supply chain logistics, there is a major push by companies to deploy cutting edge analytics. In little more than the past decade, the data science space has transcended the pages of "Moneyball" and moved into a realm marked by big strategic investments.

Research firm Fortune Business Insights predicts the "big data analytics" market will grow globally by 13 percent per year for the next six years, to become a $500 billion industry by 2028.

One of Vestar's more noteworthy data-driven deals involved carving Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) Inc. out of MSCI Inc. That was back in 2014. Vester at the time backed management to grow ISS further out of its proxy-advisory-focused roots into a comprehensive corporate governance and ESG data analytics provider. Fast-forward to 2017 - ISS underwent a management buyout led by Genstar Capital - and capabilities expended further still. And then, last year, ISS hit a homerun: Deutsche Borse, pivoting from trading-related fees to delivery of real-time investor data, acquired it from Genstar for $2.2 billion. That's nearly seven times the price ISS reportedly fetched eight years prior.

“People like to talk about machine learning and A.I. and these are useful Tools,” Bhat explained. “But what matters most in this space is using a deep understanding of the customer to provide them with the insights they need to make better business decisions.”

Becoming a data-driven company is a heavy lift and natural impediments could thwart best-case scenarios for growth in demand for such services if only due to unpreparedness. Some 80 percent of major corporations surveyed by IBM say having a more robust data-architecture is currently a top priority, and also a challenge.

“Data analytics has invigorated legacy business models and upended traditional corporate cultures,” says Shaun Dookhoo, associate director at Shoreline, a global advisory firm which specializes in helping asset owners use data. Organizations that have harnessed data analytics have benefited immensely at the expense of their competitors, while laggards often struggle to establish the necessary culture required for leveraging data, according to Dookhoo.

A recent deal that underscores the breadth of the scope of the data science opportunity: Omers Growth Equity, a part of Toronto-based Omers pension system, in May of 2022 helped seed Imply Data Inc., valued at $1.1 billion. Imply develops real-time analytics databases. Its founders are the same developers who created Apache Druid, go-to software for open-source projects that transform vast datasets into actionable intelligence.

The deal was led by Thoma Bravo which not surprisingly has its fingerprints all over the big data space. In June 2016, the technology-focused private equity powerhouse firm took Qlik private in a $3 billion deal. Qlik does data visualization, the end result all this software wizardry. It's the output, as opposed to the input, all of it part of a sprawling continuum of data harnessing activities.

Silicon Valley-based Talend is an example of a leading player focused on pulling in and making sense of humongous, disparate flows of data coming like spray from a fire hose connected with myriad sources. Thoma Bravo took Talend private in a deal that closed last September. Final price tag: $2.4 billion.

“We're focused, post tech-crash, on sub-sectors of tech that we deem to be resilient and transformative,” says Chip Virnig, partner at Thomo Bravo. Cybersecurity is arguably one such area, he points out. And data analytics is another.

“Data analytics is a vast space with a lot of niches and complex components to it,” he says.

In addition to the input and output segments along the continuum there is a middle-phase segment. It's led by companies such as publicly traded Snowflake (storage) and Alteryx (blending and integrating data streams).

Companies are viewed by some in the industry as having no alternative but to push further into data science and related tools. The beleaguered, at times broken down, global supply chain is vividly illustrating the importance of having real time Insights. Companies need to know which suppliers are most reliable, which redundancy/contingency options are viable, where delays are happening, how raw materials can be obtained more cost effectively, and so on.

“The exciting thing about this market is with Al and ML (machine learning) we can now take live data feeds and deliver real time actions via automation,” Virnig says. “It adds a whole new element in terms of return on investment.”

One of the more impressive success stories to come out of the big data sector ties to the early months of the pandemic when Vyaire, a maker of ventilators, used Talend's data platform to ramp up production from six machines to 600. Rigorous analysis using every data point on the assembly line was distilled into a re-tool blueprint that identified a series of ultimately fixable chokepoints within the quality control process.

Applying big data strategy to analytics asset management can produce an enormous informational edge to this subsector. It'll continue to grow in line with the baseline amount or assets - tens of trillions of dollars, worldwide - to be managed, said Joe Donohue, vice chairman of DC Advisory, an M&A/private capital advisor serving growth companies in North America.

“Companies like Bloomberg, FactSet Reuters and S&P Global are in a race to capture market share,” Donohue said, pointing to what could be a forthcoming cycle of new strategic bolt-on acquisitions as priorities shift to areas of growth, such as, say, ESG.

In the case of Deutsche Borse, their push into ESG factor data was the driving force behind its purchase of ISS.

Vester has done several deals that illustrate the data analytics groundswell.

Back in 2018, Vestar led an investment in Information Resources Inc. (IRI), which at the time, was owned by New Mountain Capital who retained a significant stake in the company. Not to be confused with ISS, IRI is a leading global provider of big data and predictive analytics to the consumer packaged goods sector, integrating otherwise disconnected consumer data streams (purchase habits, media consumption, as well as social, causal and customer loyalty data) to help corporate customers grow their businesses. This past April, IRI announced plans to merge with NPD Group, a global consumer data provider to the general merchandise and food service sectors, bringing together complementary, leading data assets on an advanced technology platform. Hellman & Friedman, which owns NPD. will acquire a majority stake, while Vester and New Mountain will retain significant minority stakes in the combined company.

Previously, Vestar’s Healthcare team, in 2017, led an investment into a founder-owned company called Quest Analytics, a leader in health plan provider network management analytics software. This deal exemplified the trend towards investing in vertically focused software and data analytics companies. Quest has since made, with Vestar's backing, two strategic acquisitions to expand its data sources and analytics capabilities.

“Health plan networks are characterized by massive amounts of complex, dynamic data on healthcare providers” Bhat said.

By investing heavily behind its technology and analytics capabilities, Quest created a platform that enables health plans to build high-quality networks.

“That drives positive health outcomes for members,” he said. “Something everyone in the industry wants to achieve.”

 

 

 

 


Headshot of Nikhil Bhat.

Vestar’s Nikhil Bhat: Information services are ‘in the middle innings of a shift’

Vestar’s Nikhil Bhat: Information services are ‘in the middle innings of a shift’
PE Hub
By Mary Kathleen Flynn
Published May 25, 2022

"Vestar seeks companies that 'use technology to aggregate, integrate, and analyze mission-critical data sources to drive high-impact insights for their customers."

Vestar Capital was early to recognize the value of companies that leverage data in sectors including healthcare. The New York private equity firm is still investing heavily in data-driven companies. In April, Hellman & Friedman agreed to acquire a majority stake in IRI and merge it with H&F portfolio company NPD. Vestar and New Mountain Capital will retain significant investments in the combined company. The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year. For insights on how the use of data has changed over the years and how PE is investing in data targets today, PE Hub reached out to Nikhil Bhat, Vestar partner and co-head, business and technology services.

How has the role of data evolved in businesses, and what are private equity firms investing in today?

Data has always been a key input in helping companies make critical business decisions. Over the last 10-15 years, the quantity of available data – about customers, products, markets, supply chains and internal operations – has grown exponentially, while the difficulty of acquiring this data and the cost of computing power to analyze it have shrunk dramatically. Companies who can make sense of this data are able to make better business decisions to drive growth and profitability; but given the sheer volume and complexity of the information, this is not easy.

We are looking to invest in vertical information services companies that use technology to aggregate, integrate and analyze mission-critical data sources to drive high-impact insights for their customers.

What is driving dealmaking in the sector?

We are in the middle innings of a shift in what drives value and differentiation for information services businesses. Previously, it might have been enough to provide a proprietary data source, and deliver a raw data product to customers in a database or spreadsheet. Today, value is driven by providing customers with self-service tools to quickly extract actionable insights from the data, and seamlessly integrating these tools into client workflows to support augmented decision-making. The most advanced companies, agnostic of size or industry, are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to further enhance speed and quality of analytics.

Every company is at a different stage of this transition. We get most excited by opportunities to help management teams invest behind technology and innovation to accelerate their evolution along this curve. Industry consolidation is another major opportunity; acquiring adjacent data sources or analytics technologies and combining them into a single solution that integrates into multiple client workflows can drive significant value for the customer, which in turn drives growth and value creation in the investment itself.

What are some of the data analytics companies Vestar has invested in recently and why?

Previous Vestar investments in the data analytics space include Press Ganey, Institutional Shareholder Services, MediMedia and StayWell. Current investments in the space include IRI, a provider of big data and predictive analytics to the CPG industry; Quest Analytics, a healthcare provider network management software and data company; LERETA, a data- and tech-enabled services provider to the mortgage industry; and Mercury Healthcare, which provides predictive analytics around healthcare provider and consumer engagement.

In each of these investments, we’ve been excited to partner with best-in-class management teams to invest behind innovation and technology, bolstered by strategic M&A, to fuel growth by creating value for the customer. For example, when we carved ISS out of MSCI, management had a vision to stand up a best-in-class technology architecture and use this to accelerate innovation. This technology investment, in addition to five strategic acquisitions, helped management transform the growth profile of the business in a relatively short timeframe.

Quest Analytics is another great example, where we’ve invested heavily in talent, product, and technology, and made two important acquisitions. As a result of these efforts, the company has nearly quadrupled in size since we made our original investment in 2017.

Tell us about exits. What are the opportunities?

There is an active buyer universe for best-in-class data analytics companies. We spoke earlier about industry consolidation – there are a number of larger, vertically-focused information services companies that have active M&A efforts and can be great homes for our investments. Larger-cap private equity can also be great partners for our investments and management teams, since many of the value drivers we’ve been discussing today are still highly relevant at larger scale. The public markets have historically been an attractive option as well, ascribing significant value to data analytics companies’ recurring revenue, robust growth profiles and attractive economic models.

Let’s talk about IRI. Walk us through how you grew the firm, how the merger with Hellman & Friedman’s NPD came about, and why you held onto a minority stake in the combined company?

We’re very proud of what IRI’s management team has accomplished over the course of our partnership. When we made our investment, we were impressed with IRI’s Liquid Data technology platform, which provides cutting-edge predictive analytics, visualization and decision support tools that help customers make sense of the vast and growing ocean of first- and third-party consumer data. Since then, the company has invested heavily behind innovation – with Liquid Data as its backbone – to create and grow new products that enable mission-critical decision-making across almost every aspect of our customers’ businesses. In addition, IRI has made three strategic acquisitions over the last three years to accelerate its product development roadmap in high-growth areas. These investments, paired with great execution and continued share gain in the core, have led to significant growth and value creation at IRI.

We’re incredibly excited about the merger of IRI and NPD, which will create the premier global information services provider to the consumer goods industry. Bringing together the companies’ complementary data sources – IRI’s CPG data and NPD’s general merchandise and foodservice data – on a single, leading-edge technology platform will allow the combined company to create new, superior products that help brands and retailers collaborate, better serve their customers, and navigate an increasingly complex and dynamic consumer behavior landscape.

It’s probably clear why we wanted to maintain a significant minority stake in the company. The potential for innovation, and resulting enhancement to the customer value proposition, should be a catalyst for growth, and we have tremendous confidence that the combined company’s management team will bring IRI and NPD together in a way that creates meaningful value for clients, employees and investors alike.

How are macroeconomic forces, including inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain problems and labor shortages, affecting deals in the sector?

On balance, these forces are a net positive for data analytics businesses. Factors like input cost inflation, wage increases, shifting customer behavior, and supply chain frictions are complex and opaque; good information services companies bring transparency to these issues, and help customers both mitigate risks and identify opportunities stemming from these market dislocations. As a result, our data analytics investments are becoming more important partners to their customers than ever before.

What’s the future for PE-backed deals in data analytics?

The industry dynamics we’ve been discussing today are long-term, secular growth drivers that are likely to support significant continued private equity activity in the information services space. The amount of data available to companies around their operations, customers and markets will continue to grow; the analytics technologies will continue to become more powerful; and as a result, the need for data analytics businesses’ solutions should continue to accelerate. We’re certainly excited to continue investing in the space, and see a lot of opportunity going forward.


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