Unilever to acquire supplement manufacturer SmartyPants

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - metamorworks
©Getty Images - metamorworks

Related tags Dietary supplement companies Dietary supplement industry Mergers and acquisitions

Unilever announced it has signed an agreement to acquire fast growing supplement manufacturer SmartyPants Vitamins.

SmartyPants, which was founded in 2011, scored big with both its delivery format and marketing.   The company has focused on a gummy delivery format, which hit a sweet spot in the market.

Being privately held, SmartyPants’ financial results are not a matter of public record.  But the company’s success can be gauged by the recurring interest it has garnered from investors. Another mark of success is the number of new products the company has been able to launch.

Repeated interest from investors

In 2014, SmartyPants brought in an additional $2.2 million investment though the crowdfunding site CircleUp​.  That brought the company’s crowdfunding financial backing up to that point to $4.7 million, according to SmartyPants co-founder Gordon Gould. He founded the brand with his wife, Courtney Nichols Gould.  At that time the company was boasting of triple-digit year-over-year growth.

In 2016 the company received its eighth infusion of capital from venture capital firm North Castle Partners​.  That year also marked the company’s venture into adult chewable supplements, branching out from supplements aimed at children, which was the company’s original focus.

In 2018, the company delved into the fast growing pet health supplement space​. And just this year SmartyPants has launched a line of supplements aimed at infants​ and added new immune support products​, which the company said were under development before the global pandemic hit.

Trustworthy ingredients, non-profit tie in were selling points

SmartyPants points to its non-GMO certified ingredients and sustainable sourcing as hallmarks of quality and consumer trust, which is part of what attracted Unilever to the brand, according to Peter Ter Kulve, Unilever’s president of health & wellbeing.

SmartyPants Vitamins complements Unilever’s portfolio of brands (Horlicks, OLLY, Equilibra and Liquid I.V) in the functional nutrition and supplement segment. We are excited to work with co‐founders Courtney and Gordon and their team to grow their innovative and data driven business model,”​ he said.

Fabian Garcia, Unilever’s president for North America, said SmartyPants’ longtime association with the global nonprofit Vitamin Angels, which provides vitamins to mothers, expectant mothers, and children in need worldwide, was another selling point for the brand.

“We are delighted to welcome SmartyPants Vitamins to the Unilever family and our portfolio of purpose‐led brands. SmartyPants Vitamins aligns strongly with our mission to improve the health and wellbeing of consumers and empower people to take charge of their health with solutions they can understand and trust,” he said

“From the start, SmartyPants Vitamins has been about family, authenticity and a core commitment to our collective well‐being. We are excited to work with Unilever to grow the SmartyPants brand,”​ said SmartyPants co-founders Courtney Nichols Gould & Gordon Gould.

Details of the acquisition were not announced.

Acquisition no surprise

While he claimed to have no crystal ball to know that it would be Unilever that would come calling, consultant Marc Brush, principal in the firm Bend LLC, said it was industry scuttlebutt that somebody would, some day.

"This news is a long time coming for SmartyPants. They were early to the digital game, early to the gummy game, and always very savvy with their marketing. Investors I talk to in the supplement area always put SmartyPants at the top of their list for potential targets. They just stand out from the crowd, particularly with their ability to innovate new products off that distinctive branding. The question now is who’s left? There are a few brands in supplements with forward-thinking marketing strategies, but not many, and none with the track record of success that SmartyPants developed over the past 10 years,"​ Brush told NutraIngredients-USA.

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