Mars launches investment platforms

In March 2018, Mars Petcare unveiled two initiatives: a $100 million Companion venture capital fund in partnership with Digitalis Ventures; and Leap Venture Studio, an accelerator focused on the future of pet care. The new fund will likely encounter no shortage of potential candidates. March saw pet food deals in both products and services, with Nulo Pet Food raising $5.5 million to grow its high protein, grain-free products with patented probiotics to support immune health and nutrient absorption. BrightPet Nutrition Group acquired Phoebe Products LLC, a family-owned manufacturer of baked and freeze-dried pet treats including the SO Bright brand, giving a boost to BrightPet’s healthy pet food portfolio.

Smucker acquires Rachel Ray

Smucker to acquire Rachel Ray dog food maker for $1.9 billion

The J. M. Smucker Company (Orrville, Ohio) is to acquire Ainsworth Pet Nutrition LLC (Meadville, Pa.) from L Catterton and the Lang family in a cash transaction valued at approximately $1.9 billion, offset by a $200 million tax benefit. Approximately two-thirds of Ainsworth’s sales are generated by its Rachael Ray Nutrish brand, strengthening Smucker’s portfolio in the fast-growing premium pet food category. The purchase price represents a multiple of approximately 12 times EBITDA; Smucker expects a contribution to net sales of approximately $800 million in the first full year after closing. Several of Smucker’s existing pet brands were acquired in 2015 from Big Heart Pet Brands, formerly the pet food division of Del Monte Foods, in a $6 billion transaction. These brands are mostly conventional but also include the premium Nature’s Recipe and Natural Balance brands. According to a new pet market report by Packaged Facts, the growing popularity of super-premium and natural pet foods has caused a shift in the market whereby mass channels appear poised to surpass pet specialty in pet food sales growth, a phenomenon it attributes directly to “mass premiumization.” L Catterton invested in Ainsworth in 2014.

• JustFoodForDogs, a retailer of small batch, home-cooked pet food, received a significant growth investment from NCN Cornerstone Investor L Catterton.
• The Farmer’s Dog, a direct-to-consumer fresh petfood company, closed an $8.1 million Series A financing led by Shasta Ventures.
• Spectrum Brands Holdings acquired PetMatrix, a manufacturer and marketer of rawhide-free dog chews.
• PetLife Pharmaceuticals acquired Healthy Life Pets (Dr. Geoff’s).
• Whitebridge Pet Brands acquired Arthur Dogswell.
• The Riverside Company sold pet toy company Outward Hound to J.W. Childs
• Petsmart acquired for $3+ billion.
• Rover and DogVacay merged to consolidate the pet sitting business.
• Mars acquired VCA, a chain of 800 animal hospitals and 60 diagnostic laboratories in a deal valued at $9.1 billion.
• Destination Pet a provider of pet care services including boarding, grooming, and vet care raised $30 million in debt and equity from McLarty and Opus.
• Subscription dog food delivery service Ollie Pets raised a $12.6 million led by Canaan Partners.
• Fuzzy Pet Health closed a $4.5 million seed round.