Piper has increased its presence in the natural pet food sector by investing £5m into Pet Food UK, the company behind the Barking Heads, Meowing Heads and AATU brands. Pet Food UK was founded in 2009 by Paul Hunter, Dave O’Regan and Jim Moloney. They met and worked together in the pet food industry at Nutro, and Paul had previously run his own kennels business. Dissatisfied with the quality of dog and cat food on offer, the trio set out to develop a solution. Barking Heads for dogs and Meowing Heads for cats are predominantly dry premium natural pet food ranges, formulated with the highest quality ingredients sourced from the UK. With quirky names such as ‘Fat Dog Slim’ and ‘Purr-Nickety’ and highly distinctive packaging, the products have helped simplify buying pet food for consumers in an increasingly complex and crowded market. In 2015, the company introduced the AATU brand, a super-premium product following the 80/20 rule (80% meat, 20% vegetables) which is the world’s first single protein source dry pet food.
Today the Pet Food UK brands are sold in more than 1,500 stockists in the UK including Pets At Home, Jollyes, Tesco and a large number of independent pet food specialists. With revenue exceeding £10m, the company is set to continue its rapid growth both in the UK and internationally. Sales across Scandinavia, Ireland, Russia and the Czech Republic currently represent nearly 30% of the business. The company employs 20 staff from its office in Hemel Hempstead.
Piper’s investment into Pet Food UK is the second into the natural pet food sector, following the 2015 investment into Forthglade, the Devon-based producer of natural wet food for dogs and cats. It is the final investment from Piper’s £107m, fifth fund.
As part of the deal, Mark Escolme joins as chairman. Previously at Spillers, SC Johnson and Findus, he was most recently the driving force behind the successful growth of Gü Puddings.
Paul Hunter, managing director of Pet Food UK, said: ‘We had a number of opportunities for investment, but selected Piper because of their deep knowledge and understanding of the sector and their ability to help us accelerate and manage our growth successfully. We’ve already started working with the Piper team and look forward to using their expertise in brand marketing, international sales, ecommerce and development of the team to help us grow.’
Libby Gibson, of Piper, said: ‘The £250m natural pet food market continues to be an area of high growth as consumers are increasingly and justifiably concerned about what they are feeding their pets. Backing the team behind Barking Heads, one of the leading premium natural dry pet food brands, complements our investment in Forthglade which is focused on the premium natural wet food sector. Both investments demonstrate our commitment to finding market leading brands in sectors we believe have significant growth potential. The two businesses will continue to be run independently.”