Snack brand Graze snapped up in £100m deal by Marmite owner Unilever

Graze box

Marmite owner Unilever has bought healthy snack brand Graze, which started life a decade ago as a snack box delivery service.

Graze produces nuts, seeds, trail mixes and snack bars, with no artificial ingredients and Unilever said the purchase would accelerate its presence in healthy foods.

The sale price was not given, though sources say it was less than £100m.

The boss of Graze described the deal as ‘transformational’.

Graze products are now available in stores including Sainsbury’s, Boots, WH Smith and Tesco, as well as online and direct to the consumers.

‘Growth journey’

The business was set up in 2008 by seven friends as an internet-based business. In 2009, Anthony Fletcher joined the company

In 2012 Mr Fletcher led a management buyout and became chief executive of the company.

The move, which was backed by US private equity group Carlyle taking a majority stake in the business, saw three of the seven co-founders end their day-to-day involvement in the business but remain as shareholders.

Mr Fletcher said the sale to Unilever “marks a transformational moment in Graze’s growth journey”.

“We look forward to working closely with the team to keep on inventing new healthy snacks, as well as continuing to work to understand the role technology can play in improving the food industry,” he added.

”Makes sense’

Nitin Paranjpe, president of Unilever’s food & refreshment business said: “Accelerating our presence in healthy foods and out of home this is an excellent strategic fit for the Unilever Food & Refreshment business, and a wonderful addition to our stable of purpose driven brands.

Nick Cooper, of global branding agency Landor said: “Unilever has a good track record when it comes to purchasing and then nurturing smaller brands. Its innovation and investment incubators have given it expertise in growing those smaller, more entrepreneurial brands. That’s why this deal makes sense for Graze.

Cooper said in the short term Unilever would “likely leave Graze alone”.

“That’s certainly what it did with Ben & Jerry’s”.

However he added Graze would be able to “tap into” Unilever’s global distribution channels and reach new customers.

Commenting on the deal, Simon Walton is head of the consumer practice at Berwick Partners, said:  “This deal is yet another example of consumer/FMCG giants taking on challenger brands that can help them diversify, expand, innovate, acquire talent and capitalise on fashionable trends towards healthy snacking and socially-conscious products.

“Marking his first deal, new Unilever chief Alan Jope has gained a successful business within the fast-growing healthy snacking category and online food subscription-based market to bolster Unilever’s roster, not to mention a hugely talented Graze management team overnight.

“Unilever must now tread with caution. As seen many times before, talent from within these fast-growing challenger brands will run for the hills if a large corporate gobbles up the character and culture that led to their unique success. By taking a light-touch approach, granting the existing Graze leadership team freedom, trust and autonomy to take the company forward, Unilever can provide its distribution, network and, financial clout where needed to deliver an exciting new chapter for the brand.”