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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J.–()–Unilever announced today that it has signed an agreement to acquire Sir Kensington’s, a New York-based condiment maker.

“Working with Unilever will allow us to more rapidly expand distribution while holding true to our values as we help define the next generation of good food.”

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Sir Kensington’s is a mission-driven company and a pioneer and leader in condiments sold in the organic and natural marketplace. Having seen strong growth the past four years, the product line now includes award-winning mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and a ground-breaking vegan mayo made from aquafaba called Fabanaise™. Launched in 2010, Sir Kensington’s is dedicated to using the finest, sustainably sourced ingredients. Sir Kensington’s mission, and its products, align with Unilever’s vision to make sustainable living commonplace and will complement the company’s current portfolio of products in its Foods category.

“We are excited to bring Sir Kensington’s into the Unilever family. Their mission to bring ‘integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food’ is very much in line with our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan,” said Kees Kruythoff, President, Unilever North America. “Sir Kensington’s is an innovative business with outstanding products and a leader in the organic and natural marketplace. We look forward to leveraging our joint understanding of food trends and consumer preferences to significantly grow the business.”

Matthew McCarthy, Vice President of Foods, Unilever North America, added: “Sir Kensington’s is a beautiful brand. The acquisition aligns perfectly with our global Sustainable Nutrition strategy, moving us forward on our mission to delight consumers, produce delicious food with less impact on the environment and promote nutritious cooking.”

Unilever continues to support a transforming food industry by committing to produce food that tastes good, does good and doesn’t cost the Earth.

“We’re honored to partner with such a progressive and purpose-driven company in this next chapter,” said Mark Ramadan, CEO & Co-Founder, Sir Kensington’s.

Scott Norton, Co-Founder, Sir Kensington’s, added: “Working with Unilever will allow us to more rapidly expand distribution while holding true to our values as we help define the next generation of good food.”

Co-Founders Mark Ramadan and Scott Norton will continue in their roles at Sir Kensington’s.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close in the next few weeks. The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to Sir Kensington’s. 

 

Originally posted on WWD

L Catterton and a handful of celebrities, including Karlie Kloss, have teamed up to invest in coconut oil brand Kopari Beauty.

The San Diego-based brainchild of cofounders Bryce and Gigi Goldman, Kiana Cabell and James Brennan, Kopari launched online only in 2015, followed by a sephora.com launch last October and recent QVC debut. The company’s products include Coconut Sheer Oil, $44; Coconut Body Glow, $42; Organic Coconut Melt, $38; Coconut Balm, $32; Coconut Crush Scrub, $28; Coconut Misting Body Oil, $34; Coconut Body Milk, $30; Coconut Cleansing Oil, $32; Coconut Rose Toner, $24; Coconut Face Cream, $38, and Coconut Lip Love, $10.

“The capital really will drive more of the awareness building,” said Michael Farello, managing partner at L Catterton, which has invested in beauty companies CoverFX, Bliss, Clio Professional, Dr. Wu, Ideal Image, Intercos Group and StriVectin.

The L Catterton and celebrity money (Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Hilary Duff and Shay Mitchell are also investing) should also help Kopari expand in terms of geographies and products — right now, the vast majority of Kopari’s sales come from its own e-commerce operations. Kopari and L Catterton were both mum on the details of the minority investment and sales figures, but industry sources estimated the brand had about $5 million in sales for 2016.

“We’re looking to increase sales over [the year] by at least three or four times, and not only the capital they brought to the table, but the other resources and support that they bring is going to help us get there,” said Bryce Goldman, Kopari’s chief executive officer. The celebrities mainly came into play through Brennan, a restaurateur who also founded Suja Juice, which counts Leonardo DiCaprio as an investor, he said. “Having them as investors and actually writing checks into the company really sets the stage for…some way to work together down the line in a very authentic fashion,” Brennan said.

Immediately down the line is Kopari’s launch in 340 Sephora U.S. doors, where the brand’s Organic Coconut Melt and Coconut Body Glow are set to launch as part of the Scouted by Sephora program, which features niche beauty brands. Coconut Melt is the company’s bestseller, while Body Glow and Sheer Oil are tied for second place, according to the brand.

“They’ve got an increased focus on indie brands, and they realize a lot of their customers and people, in general, are interested in these up-and-coming brands and discovering those brands, with a focus on natural, so we fit both of those boxes,” said Gigi Goldman. Kopari exceeded initial expectations on sephora.com, she added, noting that it also did well during its four airings on QVC. International shipping direct from the Kopari site launched about six weeks ago, and the business works with Sephora Canada and is in discussions with Sephora Europe.

Kopari's product lineup is made with coconut oil from the Philippines and without toxins.

Kopari’s product lineup is made with coconut oil from the Philippines and without toxins.

Kopari’s niche positioning — the brand makes natural products with coconut oil sourced from the Philippines, without sulfates, silicones, parabens, GMOs or toxins — is one of the things that drew in L Catterton.

“Kopari came up on our list early as one of the dozen or so brands that we’re tracking and watching,” said Farello. “It’s natural and efficacious and we look for that combination and see both of those trends as ones that will continue to endure for the next five-plus years.”

On the product side, Kopari’s focus right now is on driving sales of the skin-care range that launched in January — the cleansing oil, toner, cream and lip balm — but the ingredient stories of future products may veer beyond just the coconut, the founders said.

“We are looking at other components and ingredients as well,” said Brennan. “Things that enhance the benefits of coconut oil are very important to us as well,” Cabell added.

Kopari is the latest digitally native beauty business to attract investor capital. Recently, skin-care and makeup brand Glossier raised a $24 million Series B venture capital round from IVP and Index Ventures. Other Internet-savvy brands like Too Faced, Becca Cosmetics and NYX have attracted Estée Lauder and L’Oréal as buyers. For the big beauty players, betting on digitally fluent brands brings know-how and growth in house; for private equity firms that watch the size and multiples on big beauty exits, investments provide the chance to reap those returns.

*The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to Kopari.

Originally posted on Fortune.com; Written by John Kell

The move builds on the minority stake PepsiCo took in KeVita back in 2013.

PepsiCo has agreed to fully acquire sparkling probiotic drink maker KeVita, a deal that will diversify the soda and snacking giant’s portfolio by adding another brand that taps consumer interest in healthier beverages.

Rumors of a potential deal between PepsiCo  PEP -0.92%  and KeVita surfaced last month when Reuters reported the parties were close to a deal the news agency pegged at “less than $500 million.” Fortune has learned that the transaction price is actually around $200 million.

The transaction, which is set to close over the next couple of months, builds on the minority stake PepsiCo took in KeVita back in 2013. PepsiCo helped KeVita expand distribution, and intends to further push the brand’s access to retail markets now that it will fully own it.

For PepsiCo—owner of the namesake soda brand, Gatorade, Frito-Lay, and Quaker Oats—the deal is a way to bulk up on the consumer trend toward “functional” beverages, which are selling strongly as consumers look for more nutritional benefits in the foods and drinks they consume. KeVita is also on-trend in other ways: the beverages in the portfolio generally contain between five and 45 calories per serving, and most of the flavors are sweetened with stevia and contain no sugar.

Adding KeVita to PepsiCo’s portfolio will also help the beverage giant make good on its promise that by 2025 at least two-thirds of its global beverage portfolio volume will have 100 calories or fewer from added sugars per 12-oz serving. The entire KeVita line, with 27 skus currently on shelves today, meets that criteria.

The move is also a significant pivot for PepsiCo as it aims to diversity the portfolio to tilt more heavily toward beverages that are in the health and wellness space of the grocery aisle at a time when U.S. consumers are drinking less carbonated soft drinks because of concerns about high calorie counts and some sweeteners found in those drinks. Consumers are leaning more toward bottled water, juices, kombucha, and flavored waters that are more on trend today, so it makes sense that PepsiCo would want more brands in house to address those broader trends.

PepsiCo doesn’t often fully acquire brands like KeVita, which was founded in 2009, as the company’s management is fairly prudent about not overpaying for a food or beverage startup. Chief executive Indra Nooyi has said that while PepsiCo doesn’t shy away from making investments that can create value for shareholders over the long term, finding the right buying opportunity can be a challenge. Smaller startups, in particular, are often excessively priced.

“The truth is, we look at almost everything that’s out there, but obviously we buy very, very few things,” vice chairman and Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston told The Streetin an interview earlier this year. He said PepsiCo tends to average less than $500 million per year in tuck-in acquisitions.

Upon closing, KeVita will operate independently with its production and bottling facilities located in California. The brand’s co-founders, Bill Moses and Chakra Earthsong, will stay on and serve as brand ambassadors. KeVita will be tucked into the PepsiCo Premium Nutrition business, which also includes the juice and smoothie Naked Juice and sparkling juice maker IZZE.

The Giannuzzi Group, LLP acted as legal counsel to KeVita.

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Originally posted on PR Newswire

WTRMLN WTR provides delicious hydration for both casual and serious athletes and those seeking a healthier life.  It consists of nothing but cold pressed watermelon and a drop of organic lemon juice.  Straight from the fruit with no added water, sugar, or artificial ingredients, WTRMLN WTR is low in calories and sugar.  It is packed with electrolytes (especially potassium), the amino acid L- Citrulline, and the antioxidant Lycopene, plus, it’s an excellent source of Vitamins A and C.  The product is all natural, gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, and kosher.

“Beyoncé’s partnership and investment brings energy and purpose to our mission to help educate consumers about clean, healthy hydration for active lives,” states Levy.

With all the functional and nutritional values, fitness trainers, pro athletes, and health conscious consumers are increasingly turning to WTRMLN WTR, especially at that critical point of sweat. It is this connection to fitness, the mission of the Company, and a compassionate approach to business that inspired Beyoncé’s involvement.

“I invested in WTRMLN WTR because it’s the future of clean, natural hydration; as partners, we share a simple mission to deliver accessible wellness to the world,” said Beyoncé.   ”This is more than an investment in a brand, it’s an investment in female leaders, fitness, American farmers, and the health of people and our planet.”

With annual revenues currently on pace to more than triple in 2016 from the previous year, the company is poised for major growth. “CAVU is excited to partner with a brand that uses America’s superfruit to create a deliciously hydrating beverage that’s perfect for all fitness occasions” says partner Rohan Oza.

The Giannuzzi Group, LLP acted as legal counsel to WTRMLN WTR.

About WTRMLN WTR

WTRMLN WTR is one of the least expensive, most accessible cold pressed juices on the market.  It is made from the millions of pounds of unused waste watermelons in the United States annually (otherwise known as ‘ugly’ fruit). WTRMLN WTR was founded in 2013 by Jody Levy and Harlan Berger, CEO and Founder of Centaur Properties.

The Company’s mission is rather simple: better, more sustainable methods of food production, less waste, a smarter planet, healthier humans, a healthier world, more love, equality, decency and kindness.

WTRMLN WTR is currently available in 12oz and 1L packages at 7,500 retail doors across the United States and Canada, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Wegman’s, Sprouts, as well as at airports and colleges and online at Amazon.com. To learn more, visit www.wtrmlnwtr.com. @WTRMLNWTR #WTRMLNWTR.

Published on BeNET.com

Written by Ray Latif

Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) has increased its ownership position in BodyArmor, having invested an additional $6 million in the premium sports drink brand. The deal, finalized in March, comes approximately seven months after DPSG acquired an 11.7 percent stake in BodyArmor for $20 million. DPSG now owns 15.5 percent of the brand, and, as a result of the investment, is the second largest shareholder behind BodyArmor chairman and co-founder Mike Repole.

In a call with BevNET, Repole said that the funding will go toward new staffing and marketing initiatives, including an upcoming media campaign scheduled to launch this week.

Formulated with natural electrolytes, coconut water and vitamins, BodyArmor is marketed as a natural and better-for-you alternative to sports drinks that are made with artificial ingredients. Launched in 2012 by serial beverage entrepreneur Lance Collins and Repole, the former president of vitaminwater, the brand is distributed nationally and has been part of DPSG’s allied brand portfolio since 2013. DPSG’s direct store delivery system manages distribution of BodyArmor in 34 states; it’s represented by independent wholesalers in other parts of the U.S. Repole praised the partnership with DPSG as key to BodyArmor’s development.

“Dr Pepper Snapple Group gives us the distribution muscle to compete nationally with Gatorade and Powerade,” Repole said. “This [investment] solidifies their confidence in the brand. We have a great relationship, and I think we have the same vision for what we see in this sports drink category and what we see for the potential of BodyArmor.”

Although Gatorade and Powerade collectively hold a 98 percent share of the sports drink category, BodyArmor is growing fast. Sales of the brand reached $47 million in multi-outlet channels (not including convenience stores) over a 52-week period ending on March 21, according to data provided by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. The figure represents a 190 percent increase in sales from a year prior.

BodyArmor sales are even more impressive in the convenience channel and other independent retailers, Repole said. He projects total sales of the brand to reach $150 million by the end of the year.

To support growth, BodyArmor will continue to lean on an impressive roster of professional athlete endorsers, including Andrew Luck, Mike Trout, James Harden, Richard Sherman and Dez Bryant — all of whom are also investors in the brand. Perhaps its best-known athlete partner is Kobe Bryant, who in 2014 acquired an estimated 10 percent of BodyArmor.

The Giannuzzi Group, LLP acted as legal counsel to BodyArmor.

Published on PR News Wire

NEWBURY PARK, Calif., April 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Veestro, the leading gourmet plant-based meal delivery service, announced today that it has secured $1.5 million in financing, an investment led by M&A Capital, Inc. and Starcorp International S.A. The funding will accelerate the company’s aggressive growth driven by health-minded consumers looking for convenient solutions to meal planning and preparation.

Since the company’s launch in 2013, sales have increased by more than 300% per year, mainly due to the ever-increasing trend of healthy eating paired with the growing need for day-to-day convenience.  “Plant-based diets are generating conversations every day which are fundamentally transforming the way consumers think about the food they eat,” commented Mark Fachler, Founder and CEO of Veestro. ”America is becoming more and more health conscious, yet at the same time they are looking for solutions to make life easier. This is where Veestro comes in, offering the solution for people who want to eat healthy, organic, plant-based meals, but don’t have the time to go food shopping or to cook a meal. It saves them from the trap of ‘fast food’, which is usually extremely unhealthy.”

Building on this momentum and the current demands driven by consumer behavior, Veestro will use the financing to build and equip a new 20,000 sq. ft. production facility, establish a new distribution center on the East coast, support marketing efforts, and finance a select few strategic hires. As Veestro executes expansion plans in the first half of 2016, the brand also looks to unveil a rebranding in the first half of the year.

“Finding innovative, successful, and disruptive business concepts in the food industry is a challenging task,” noted Oliver Preuss, Principal, Starcorp International S.A. “Veestro encompasses all of these attributes and more.  Their delicious, healthy and organic plant based home delivery meal business concept embraces society’s ever evolving awareness of the benefits provided by living a healthier lifestyle. Veestro allows easy access for busy individuals to the advantages afforded by healthy organic food. We believe to have found the ideal partner to take advantage of this ever growing market trend.

Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Director at M&A Capital, Inc. echoed the brand growth potential sharing, “Not only is the organic food industry growing at double digits every year, but is only 5% of the food industry as a total.  With the healthier lifestyle of millennials, and their preference for convenience, there is no doubt Veestro will become a household name.”

Our vision has always been about making healthy food available to everyone,” noted Monica Klausner, Co-Founder and CMO of Veestro. “We are thrilled to be partnered with M&A Capital, Inc. and Starcorp International S.A. to accelerate this process.”

The Giannuzzi Group, LLP acted as legal counsel to Veestro.

For more information on Veestro, please visit www.veestro.com.

Originally posted on Fortune Magazine

Written by: John Kell

The venture capital arm of General Mills has made an investment in another food startup, announcing on Tuesday that it participated in a funding round for cottage cheese maker Good Culture.

California-based Good Culture said it closed a $2.1 million financing round with lead investments coming from CAVU venture partners and 301 Inc., which is a business unit of General Mills  GIS 0.91%  that takes investment stakes in small regional food startups that are looking for capital to grow.

“We are thrilled to partner with Good Culture,” said John Haugen, vice president and general manager of 301 Inc, in a statement. Haugen said General Mills’ resources can help the startup grow in a category that is gaining more attention from grocery shoppers: nutrient dense, high protein snacks.

As Fortune reported last year, 301 Inc. looks to invest in startups that are competing in new categories, taking stakes in smaller brands that could eventually result in a full acquisition, though that is not a requirement. It is a way for the cereal maker, with $17.6 billion in annual sales, to keep a pulse on the fast changes in the world of food and beverage as millennials and other consumers gravitate toward new brands with feel-good messages.

Other investments 301 Inc. has made include stakes in plant-based food maker Beyond Meat and kale chips brand Rhythm Superfoods.

Cereal maker is investing in cottage cheese.

The venture capital arm of General Mills has made an investment in another food startup, announcing on Tuesday that it participated in a funding round for cottage cheese maker Good Culture.

California-based Good Culture said it closed a $2.1 million financing round with lead investments coming from CAVU venture partners and 301 Inc., which is a business unit of General Mills  GIS 0.91%  that takes investment stakes in small regional food startups that are looking for capital to grow.

“We are thrilled to partner with Good Culture,” said John Haugen, vice president and general manager of 301 Inc, in a statement. Haugen said General Mills’ resources can help the startup grow in a category that is gaining more attention from grocery shoppers: nutrient dense, high protein snacks.

As Fortune reported last year, 301 Inc. looks to invest in startups that are competing in new categories, taking stakes in smaller brands that could eventually result in a full acquisition, though that is not a requirement. It is a way for the cereal maker, with $17.6 billion in annual sales, to keep a pulse on the fast changes in the world of food and beverage as millennials and other consumers gravitate toward new brands with feel-good messages.

Other investments 301 Inc. has made include stakes in plant-based food maker Beyond Meat and kale chips brand Rhythm Superfoods.

Good Culture is a very new food startup that focuses on selling cottage cheese that is high in protein, low in sugar and never uses gums or thickeners. It has already found some key retail success, stocking the company’s savory and sweet cottage cheeses on retail shelves at Whole Foods Market  WFM -1.41%  and Sprouts Farmers Market  SFM 0.32% .

Founders Jesse Merrill and Anders Eisner say their brand’s cottage cheese includes non-GMO ingredients and comes from grass-fed milk from cows that live on sustainable family farms. Like many food startups, it also vows to give back to the community: 1% of sales goes toward a network of nonprofits dedicated to protecting the environment.

The Giannuzzi Group, LLP acted as legal counsel to Good Culture.

 

Christmas came early for REBBL last month, albeit just by a few hours. On Dec. 24, the San Francisco-based brand of adaptogen-powered herbal elixirs and tonics closed its first capital raise beyond friends and family. Led by Powerplant Ventures – an investment fund co-founded by ZICO founder Mark Rampolla – the round also included investments from Arif Fazal’s Blueberry Ventures, equity crowdfunding platform CircleUp and personal investments from former Boulder Brands executives Duane Primozich and Carole Buyers. REBBL did not disclose the amount of the raise.

“This company has so much potential and we we wanted the crème de la crème of a team to be with us and help us on this ride,” said REBBL CEO Sheryl O’Loughlin. “We knew we couldn’t do it alone.”

Rampolla, who, along with Primozich, joined REBBL’s board of directors, told BevNET he’d had his eyes on the company for quite some time, stemming from a longstanding relationship with its co-founder Palo Hawken, who played a role in developing ZICO’s chocolate-flavored variety.

“For a while I’d been intrigued by the concept of super herbs as the next superfood wave,” said Rampolla. “Then they developed this line of coconut milk-based elixirs and I was all over it. I’ve always believed there was a lot of opportunity for coconut milk and I didn’t think anyone had done a grab-and-go version that was delicious, and this was.”

O’Loughlin reiterated earlier statements she’d made about ramping up REBBL’s marketing efforts through in-store sampling and social media with the new funding and also discussed allocating the new resources towards strengthening the brand’s distribution footprint. Currently, REBBL is available in 1,400 retailers primarily in the natural channel, where O’Loughlin says the brand will continue to dedicate its focus.

“We’ve just started to scratch surface in terms of distribution potential,” O’Loughlin added. “We’re being careful about making sure that as we expand the distribution we have the velocity to support it. We’re doing so in a way that’s sustainable.”

Prior to joining REBBL’s board of directors in January, 2015, O’Loughlin spent ten years at Clif Bar, the final three of which she served as CEO. Last October she was named CEO of Rebbl, with Hawken shifting to the role of chief innovation officer.

Article originally posted on BevNET

Extends and leverages Saffron Road’s Plant-Based Protein Snack Platform with an On-Trend & Leading Lentil/Legume Product Line

Stamford, Connecticut- August 20th, 2015. American Halal Company, Inc. announced today that it had wholly acquired the Mediterranean Snack Foods Company, LLC. (“Mediterranean Snacks®”). American Halal also wholly owns Saffron Road, a leading Natural Frozen Entrée brand as well as a premier innovator of shelf stable natural products, such as Non-GMO Project Verified Simmer Sauces, Organic Chickpea Snacks, and Antibiotic Free Halal Broths.

Mediterranean Snacks is one of the leading lentil snack brands in the U.S. and offers a selection of over 50 Natural lentil/legume based chips, crackers, and veggie snacks. Mediterranean Snacks was founded in 2005 by Vincent James and is a pioneer in the nutritious plant-based snacks category, with innovative products like Baked Lentil Chips®, Lentil Crackers, Hummuz™ Crackers, and its recently launched BeanStalks™ Snacks. Mediterranean Snacks products are widely distributed in 20,000 stores across multiple grocery, specialty, convenience, club, and mass channels in U.S. and Canada. Many of their products are Non-GMO Project Verified and have enjoyed recognition from industry leaders and media superstars- including Dr. Oz, Shape Magazine, The Gourmet Retailer, and Progressive Grocer.

With its distinctive product offerings, Mediterranean Snacks offers compelling opportunities to extend its line under a Saffron Road brand portfolio. Adnan Durrani, CEO of American Halal Company, Inc., commented by stating, “We are quite excited about our acquisition today of Mediterranean Snacks. While we get offered many opportunities for potential buyouts every year, this is not only American Halal’s first and only one, but one of the few that we feel is a perfect tuck in acquisition for the Saffron Road portfolio. Mediterranean Snacks and Saffron Road are very complementary as well as synergistic given both our consumers and demographics sweet spots are at the center of the massive U.S. trends for healthy snacking of foods that are Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, high in protein and fiber, clean labeled, and calorically smart. Moreover, Vincent’s excellent Nabisco and Kraft pedigree significantly enhances the leadership of our snack production and product development teams. This acquisition now catapults American Halal’s footing onto a heightened platform in plant-based protein snacking- an area we have seen some excellent recent success in with our Chickpea Snacks line and which we now intend to establish a beachhead in as well as to devote serious resources behind. This will allow us to build on Saffron Road’s brand leadership in natural frozen entrees by scaling our marketing and sales team to lead a dynamic and highly innovative ambient snack category. We expect this acquisition to be accretive to our margins in 2016 and beyond. This tuck in rollup is the next chapter in American Halal’s tremendous growth which we intend to successfully leverage into  Saffron Road’s stellar brand value and success at multiple levels of in store placement, distribution channels, trade. We are now well on our way in establishing Saffron Road as a national platform brand in the $60 billion natural, and alternative snack food sectors.“

Vincent James, CEO of Mediterranean Snack Foods Company, who will now be Senior Vice President and General Manager of Saffron Road’s Snack Division, commented by saying, “we are excited to be part of the American Halal Company/Saffron Road Team and this acquisition leverages the Mediterranean Snacks brand to the next level in plant-based protein snack foods.”

Silverwood Partners acted as investment bankers and The Giannuzzi Group, LLP were the lawyers for Mediterranean Snack Foods Company, LLC. Golenbock, Eiseman, Assor, Bell & Peskoe, LLP acted as legal advisors to American Halal Company, Inc.

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SOURCE: Saffron Road

By Richard Collings

The fourth floor of an aging brick building in the heart of the New York City’s Meatpacking District might be the studio of the latest “it” fashion designer or the lair of a technology company launching the newest dating app.

But not this one. Far from the glass-clad office towers of midtown Manhattan, this space houses a corporate law firm that, in its own way, is just as hot as anything on a runway or smartphone.

To be clear, while the offices of Giannuzzi Group LLP radiate an entreprenuerial vibe, the firm is anything but a start-up. Nick Giannuzzi has been building the practice for more than 20 years since becoming an independent legal adviser to some of the trendiest names in food.

“You work for 20 years, and then you’re an overnight success,” Giannuzzi quipped, as he sat in a conference room, surrounded by shelves filled with his clients’ products and the walls covered with posters advertising those companies’ goods.

 

GIANNUZZI GROUP FOUNDER NICK GIANNUZZI

The firm’s client roster reads like a who’s who of the fastest growing consumer brands to hit retail shelves during the past few years. The makers of PopChips popped potato chips, Siggi’s yogurt, Suja juice beverages, Vita Coco coconut water and Pirate’s Booty puffed snacks, among others, have sought Giannuzzi’s counsel in recent years .

The list also includes jerky maker Krave Pure Foods Inc., which recently sold to Hershey Co. (HSY) for more than $300 million or more than 9 times revenue. And it includes fruit and nut bar maker Kind LLC, whose founder Daniel Lubetzky bought back a minority stake in his company for about $220 million in early 2014.

Perhaps most famously, the law firm had another long-term client for whom Giannuzzi said he handled all legal matters, including several rounds of financing: Glaceau Vitaminwater parent Energy Brands Inc.

An early client of Giannuzzi’s, Energy Brands would end up selling to Coca-Cola Co. (KO) for $4.1 billion. The law firm advised on the deal, but a larger firm had to be brought in as the lead on it.

In fact, Energy Brands was one of Giannuzzi’s early clients.

WHEN GIANNUZZI WAS 29, he decided to strike out on his own, leaving Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts (now known as Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP) to form Donovan & Giannuzzi LLP with Nicholas Donovan in 1996. Giannuzzi then parted ways with Donovan to form Giannuzzi Group in 2011.

A typical client back then was the father and son team of William and J. Darius Bikoff, who sought counsel in 1999 having started a beverage company a few years earlier. A couple of months later, Giannuzzi said, the company decided it would be a good idea to put vitamins in water, and Vitaminwater was born.

The relationship he developed with Energy Brands is emblematic of how Giannuzzi has built his firm over the years-taking on entrepreneurs at an early stage when other lawyers and their firms are reluctant to do so. If one of those clients has a hit after the product formulation and brand is in place, it only takes a few years for the company to go from zero sales to desirable acquisition target with tens of millions of dollars in revenue and double-digit growth.

Giannuzzzi eschews midtown’s towers and the imposing wood-paneled formality of many of the advisory firms’ offices located in such buildings. He does that to create an atmosphere entrepreneurs are familiar with and comfortable in. The dress code at Giannuzzi is equally casual, jeans and button-downs, with no ties, and sleeves likely rolled up.

Lawyers are hired straight out of college rather than from other law firms, and the firm’s culture is to work hard, but to enjoy the offices as though they are a second home, Giannuzzi explained.

In addition, by starting his own firm, Giannuzzi has experienced the same anxiety as his clients-the fear of the phone not ringing.

The law firm’s clients seem more than satisfied with the services Giannuzzi renders.

“Much more than legal counsel, [Giannuzzi is] an incredibly valuable partner who gave us fantastic legal counsel, insightful strategic advice [and] access to his Rolodex,” said Sean Olson, founder of snack food company IPS Chips LLC. “If you’re starting a company in the [food and beverage] space, Nick is the guy to work with.”

Krave founder Jon Sebastiani echoes Olson’s praise of Giannuzzi’s network and the access he provides. Sebastiani also noted that “[Giannuzzi] has an unbelievable team that works ungodly hours.” When Krave was in the midst of a round of fundraising or a deal, it would not be uncommon for Sebastiani to be on the phone with Nick Giannuzzi at 1 a.m. He added that he expects he will likely work with the law firm in the future, even after the sale of his company to Hershey.

Giannuzzi said that all of the large transactions his law firm advises on are with clients he has represented since their early stages.

And advising a client from the beginning, when the company has no revenue, he can structure every contract so as to obtain the highest valuation possible in the advent of a sale.

For example, if a beverage start-up signs a contract with a distributor who wants a “forever” contract, Coca-Cola will likely not want to purchase the business, eliminating an important potential bidder. “Forever” contracts make it difficult for a beverage manufacturer to change distributors, even when an incumbent performs poorly.

When it comes time to sell the company, Giannuzzi said, he has attended every board meeting and intimately understands the reason behind every decision, which helps during the due diligence process.

In order to prepare an owner for a sale, Giannuzzi will conduct mock due diligence in which the client prepares a data room. And then the firm goes in and “beats it up,” probing executives on issues such as ensuring that all the trademarks are filed and whether any contracts are expiring.

And if a problem surfaces-say, a trademark hasn’t been registered in Brazil- the company needs to explain why, he said.

Like Energy Brands, Krave also was an early-stage company Giannuzzi said he took on. It is another example of a fast-growing consumer food brand that sold to a publicly traded consumer packaged goods conglomerate for a rich valuation.

Other examples include Preferred Brands International Inc.’s Tasty Bite, acquired by Kagome Corp. in April for 2 times revenue, and Happy Family parent Nurture Inc., which sold for several times its revenue to Danone SA in 2013.

Giannuzzi considers potential clients’ brands, packaging and positioning to determine whether they can win their respective categories. But the founder added that he’s not one to turn away a budding entrepreneur seeking advice. “There’s a sense you don’t want to say no, because you don’t want someone to say no to you,” Giannuzzi noted.

The firm has represented a number of companies that have tapped into the increasing demand for natural and organic foods, and as a result, are desirable targets for food conglomerates under pressure to add good-for-you products.

“I’m lucky to be in the epicenter of one of the biggest areas of growth in America,” Giannuzzi said.

Giannuzzi, however, is better positioned than in 2007 as a firm when it had to hand over a lead legal advisory role to one of the bigger firms when its client Energy Brands was bought.

At the time of the deal, Giannuzzi had only six lawyers, the founder said, but that is not the case today. Giannuzzi insisted, “We have the manpower for any sized deal now.”