We are delighted to announce that we have sold our stake in natural dog food brand Forthglade to IK Investment Partners. We want to thank the Forthglade team for an incredible five-year journey which began when we invested £6m in September 2015 when the business had sales of £11m.
We first met the team when the business was primarily a private label supplier to Pets At Home and other retailers, with branded sales making up just 35% of sales. We are proud to part company at a time when the business boasts sales of £22m, of which the Forthglade brand now makes up 70%. Branded sales have increased more than four times in five years.
From our very first coffee with them, we subscribed to their vision of building a premium natural dog food brand from an authentic product story which dates back 40 years. The business has always developed its own recipes using a combination of nutritionally balanced ingredients (95% sourced from the UK) with added vitamins and minerals that contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Yet the brand narrative needed teasing out. Working closely with Joint Managing Directors Gerard Lovell and Chris Brooking (who will continue to lead the business) and Marketing Director Patrick Horton, we spent the first few months post-investment unpacking what made the brand better and different.
It was all about great value for money 100% natural wet dog food all lovingly made from its own factory in Devon, which helps to nourish loving relationships between owner and dog. With the help of branding agency big fish, this was translated into wonderful pack designs alongside innovative marketing campaigns that engaged with a loyal band of customers across the UK, including through a partnership with the National Trust.
At Piper, we love brands that can speak directly to their customers. As the team broadened its distribution from specialist pet shops into mainstream grocery and Amazon, we worked with them to develop and grow a successful high repeat direct to consumer online channel.
The business is now well positioned for the next leg of its exciting journey and to exploit the continued humanisation of dog food, with the natural segment forecast to grow its share of the total wet dog food market from 15% today to 27% by 2024.
To help deal with demand, in 2018 Forthglade built a 70,000sq ft state of the art manufacturing facility in Okehampton that would enable the business to triple production capacity. In these difficult times, the business proudly employs 130 people.
The new factory will also have a long-term impact on the environment. 20m litres of water will be recycled every year, equivalent to eight Olympic-size swimming pools. Food waste is recycled and turned into electricity and the bio-fertiliser produced is used to fertilise the land. And the excess energy from the production process is used to heat offices and staff facilities.
We look forward to staying close to the team. It gives us no greater pleasure than to grow brands that prosper long after our time with them. We’ve no doubt we’ll see many more dogs enjoying their dinners from Devon.
Although we are saying farewell to Forthglade, our love of the pet sector is reflected in our portfolio. We know that consumers want to feed quality food to their pets, and Barking Heads with its clean and natural ingredient deck will deliver just that. And with more and more of us returning to work, the continued expansion of Bruce’s Doggy Day Care Centres will make it easier for owners and very much more enjoyable for their dogs.