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2021 Deal Flow – The Most Active Investors in Beauty

February 7, 2022
February 7, 2022
Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Last year had plenty of ups and downs, but the interest in beauty among investors remains high because the sector continues to deliver strong returns. The BeautyMatter Deal Index tracked a total of 407 deals in 2021, a 52% increase from 2020 and a 48% increase from 2019. Growth investments (seed, venture, minority stakes) dominated the deal landscape, comprising 56% of deals and growing 59% from 2020. M&A (traditional mergers, acquisitions, and majority stakes) was a close second, comprising 40% of deals and growing 46% from 2020.

Historically, beauty founders have had two paths for growth and liquidity strategic acquisitions: by a beauty and consumer conglomerate or a private equity takeover. Last year, the number of transactions in the sector reached record levels with stiff competition among strategic buyers willing to pay hefty prices for high-growth assets.

Another dynamic was the emergence of new power players in the beauty landscape, expanding the universe of buyers, sellers, and investors, adding fuel to an already very frothy market. This significant trend transitioned from concept to reality, with groups seeing a white space beginning to assemble synergistic portfolios of brands unencumbered by legacy thinking. In the short term, it has created a concentrated burst of deals. Long term, the success of these "new strategics" has the potential of upsetting the big beauty status quo.

BeautyMatter has surfaced six of the most dynamic investors in the beauty space in 2021. Some still have dry powder and have already been active in 2022, while others are shifting their focus from acquisition to optimization and growth.

THE POWER PLAYERS 2021

Advent International and Orveon: Boston-based Advent International is one of the largest global private equity investors with holdings in the beauty sector. From 2013-2015, the firm held a majority stake in German-based retailer Douglas. In 2019, they made a majority investment in cult haircare brand Olaplex, brought in powerhouse CEO JuE Wong, and took the business public in an IPO in September 2021, beating expectations and raising over $1.55 billion. Advent maintained roughly 79.6 percent of the combined voting power in the company after the offering through associated investment funds.

In August 2021, the firm scooped up a trio of three struggling heritage brands—Laura Mercier, Buxom, and BareMinerals—from Shiseido Americas in a deal reported to be worth $700 million. Upon completing the transaction in December, Advent debuted a newly formed affiliate, Orveon, as a stand-alone collective of premium and prestige beauty brands. Pascal Houdayer serves as Chief Executive Officer of Orveon, or "Social Architect," as he describes himself, bringing more than 30 years of beauty industry and management experience. Operating Partner Janet Gurwitch, a respected beauty industry investor, founder, and former CEO of Laura Mercier, advised Advent on the transaction and will continue to advise the firm and the new company.

With Orveon, we are embarking on a journey to bring the world a new type of beauty company defined by solidarity, stark honesty and benevolent activism," said Pascal Houdayer. "We intend to unite these powerhouse brands and move to an era of innovative evolution, that will break down category barriers and societal conventions to form a sustainable face care expert.

In the short term, Orveon will focus on solidifying the culture of the business and ensure a thoughtful transitioning of the brands from Shiseido. Ultimately, the group will acquire additional brands building out a portfolio with a view of what the beauty landscape will look like in the next 10-15 years.

Amyris: Leaders in biotechnology, Amyris started in 2003 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a molecule to treat malaria, and since that time they have become a vanguard in the biofuel revolution. Fast-forward, the business has evolved into a leading synthetic biotech company focused on servicing the beauty and personal care market, accelerating sustainable ingredients through fermentation and the company's proprietary Lab-to-Market operating platform. The business has developed and scaled 13 molecules with another 18 in the pipeline, and their ingredients are used in over 20,000 products from the world's top brands.

In 2016, Amyris developed a synthetic form of shark-derived squalene and incubated a beauty brand based on the ingredient as a marketing vehicle. Five years later, Biossance has generated $160 million in sales, and squalene represents 20% of Amyris' total revenue. Looking to replicate this success, and guided by CEO John Melo's vision of building "the L'Oréal of clean beauty," the company set about developing a portfolio of consumer brands deploying a bifurcated strategy of incubation and acquisition.

Clean baby brand Pipette, Purecane, a pioneering clean sweetener, and JVN, a haircare brand co-created with Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness were all incubated by Amyris between 2019-2021. The balance of the nine-brand portfolio came into the fold through an acquisition philosophy of buying small brands and growing them to deliver a 10x return or higher in four years or less rather than competing for established brands.

In October 2020, Amyris acquired 60% of Rose, Inc., the lifestyle media company founded by supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, launching a color cosmetics and skincare brand in August 2021. Terasana was the business’s first brand acquisition in February 2021, rebranded as a clean clinical skincare brand based on squalene and CBG, and relaunched last August. Costa Brazil was added to the portfolio in March 2021, and founder Francisco Costa assumed the role of Chief Creative Officer of Amyris. In April 2021, Amyris took a 70% stake in Gen Z-focused color brand EcoFabulous, and founder Marissa Shipman joined Amyris to lead brand innovation. Clean wellness brand Olika was acquired in June 2021, with President Alastair Dorward joining Amyris as Chief Brand Officer. Like many beauty portfolios, Amyris also invested in technology, acquiring Beauty Labs last year, a business pioneering the future of enhanced reality in beauty and wellness.

The result has been a flurry of dealmaking in 2021 that has created a portfolio of brands covering the spectrum of beauty categories, tapping current trends while assembling a C-suite of talent in the process. Amyris began 2022 announcing an agreement on exclusive terms to acquire the assets of MenoLabs, LLC, a women-founded company focused on menopause. It’s been reported that Amyris isn't planning other acquisitions as it currently has enough brands to cover 80-90% of the beauty market. Moving forward, creating and leveraging the synergies between the portfolio brands and growth will most likely be the focus of the business.

Waldencast Acquisition Corp and Waldencast Ventures : Waldencast was founded by Michel Brousset and Hind Sebti with a vision of building a digital-first multi-brand beauty and wellness platform by creating, acquiring, and scaling the next generation of high-growth, purpose-driven brands. The dynamic new fund invested in Costa Brazil in 2019 but officially debuted in March 2020, announcing three investments: luxury organic makeup brand Kjaer Weis, Brazilian DTC cosmetics brand Sallve, and male wellness digital platform Manual. Later in the year, C16 Biosciences, a sustainable alternative to palm oil, was added to the portfolio. In 2021, the group took a majority stake in Kjaer Weis, led a seed funding round in precision skincare brand Revea, launched luxury skincare range Whind, and divested of Costa Brazil.

In March 2021, the group launched a new operating and financial platform, Waldencast Acquisition Corp, which went public via a SPAC to provide beauty and wellness entrepreneurs with an alternative path to capture growth and take their brands to the next level. Their portfolio approach mitigates some risks by combining experienced beauty talent in business development and managing global operations, creating an ecosystem that allows sharing best practices, moving with agility, and capturing potential synergies across brands. Waldencast announced a $1.2 billion three-way business combination with Obagi and Milk Makeup as the first step in its strategy to build a global multi-brand platform.

Waldencast has built a team of seasoned beauty operators led by Brousset and Hind Sebti, who bring decades of experience operating and scaling global beauty brands at multinational companies like L'Oréal and Procter & Gamble. The group is just getting started on its journey and believes it will be an attractive home for emerging brands searching for global operational scale. For now, Waldencast Ventures and Waldencast Acquisition Corp will remain separate entities.

Fable Investments: Natura & Co joined many other strategic beauty companies to create a venture capital investment arm. The global beauty company currently consists of four brands—Natura, Aesop, The Body Shop, and Avon—operating in over 70 countries. Launched in March 2021, Fable Investments is managed independently from Natura & Co to ensure full commitment and autonomy to the investment portfolio while accessing the Natura & Co portfolio resources.

With Fable, Natura & Co intends to make 10 to 15 minority investments, ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars up to about $10 million, but will be able to take an active role in the business at both a strategic and operating level. The fund will consider holding assets longer than the traditional three- to five-year private equity investment horizon, with the possibility of acquiring some of the investments. Fable is looking for beauty and wellness brands with proof of concept as well as innovative technologies. As a Certified B Corp, social and environmental responsibility is a core tenet of all the Natura & Co portfolio brands. Investment partners must be purpose driven and aligned with this principle.

The fund is helmed by Managing Director Thomas Buisson, the former General Manager of Aesop in Europe, and Michael O'Keeffe, who remains Aesop's CEO; Paola Felipak, Principal; Sophia Sun, Analyst; Roger Schmid, Key Advisor; and Fabrice Hablot, Director. The fund plans to leverage Aesop's specific expertise in scaling without losing a brand's DNA to guide its investment brands.

Fable closed four deals in 2021. The fund's inaugural investment was in Lyn Harris' Perfumer H followed by a seed investment in LOLI Beauty, a $2 million investment in LA-based skincare brand Stratia, and participation in sexual wellness brand Maude's oversubscribed $5.8 million Series A.

To build a portfolio of 10-15 investments, Fable heads into 2022 with plenty of dry powder to deploy.

The Good Glamm Group: Founded in 2017 by Darpan Sanghvi, MyGlamm is an omnichannel beauty brand offering a range of more than 800 SKUs across makeup, skincare, and personal care. While it is digital first, MyGlamm also has over 10,000 offline points of sales across 70 cities in India. Last year, the brand opened a 3,000-sq-ft interactive flagship that is six times larger than the average Indian beauty store. The business began its acquisition spree in July 2020 when MyGlamm acquired POPxo-Plixxo, making MyGlamm-POPxo-Plixxo the largest content-community-commerce platform in India.

In November 2021, the Mumbai-headquartered start-up announced the formation of The Good Glamm Group, which will act as the umbrella company for MyGlamm and its portfolio of brands. The group has more than 4 million customers and is available at over 20,000 digital and physical points of sale across India, acquiring 350,000 new customers every month on average. Content-to-commerce conglomerate The Good Glamm Group furthered its ambition of becoming India's largest CPG company by building a "digital Unilever" with an additional $150 million in funding at a $1.2 billion valuation.

Last year, it added India's largest parenting platform BabyChakra, and founder Naiyya Saggi joined the group as co-founder and President, charged with leading the Mom-Baby vertical. This was followed by the addition of ScoopWhoop, a digital media platform that operates online content verticals covering lifestyle, current affairs, and news, to the portfolio, as well as MissMalini Entertainment, an Indian media and influencer talent management network. They closed 2021 leading Sirona Hygiene's $13.5 million Series B funding round.

The dealmaking has continued into 2022, with the group snapping up creator analytics company Vidooly and influencer marketing platform Winkl. followed by taking a majority stake in Organic Harvest, marking its entry into the organic beauty and personal care space. The Good Glamm Group also spun off Plixxo, MissMalini, Winkl, and Vidooly to launch The Good Creator Co. with a $26.8 million seed investment.

The business has made seven acquisitions in the last 12 months, with a commitment to spend $100 million on innovative, fast-growing beauty and personal care brands. The Good Glamm Group is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Indian beauty market, valued at $16 billion in 2020 and expected to grow at 12% per annum to $28 billion by 2025 according to a RedSeer report. Indian start-ups are on fire, with VC investment in Indian companies jumping to $39 billion in 2021, spawning 44 new Indian unicorns.

True Beauty Ventures: True Beauty Ventures is the early-stage investment fund founded in 2020 by seasoned beauty industry veterans Rich Gersten and Cristina Nuñez predicated on a belief in the power of sector specialization. Their debut fund closed in August 2021 with more than $42 million backed by beauty founders and executives.

Gersten and Nuñez have extensive investing and operating experience that allows them to identify beauty, wellness, and personal care brands at an inflection point of breakout growth and helps them scale and exit successfully. As sector specialists, True Beauty has the flexibility to be stage agnostic, investing from Seed to Series C, writing checks from $1-5 million. In addition, they have an exclusive partnership with North Castle Partners, a leading consumer private equity firm, enabling them to pursue larger investment opportunities that require at least $10 million of capital.

The fund looks for business with some proof of concept, commercial traction of $1-2 million in sales, and an omnichannel growth strategy focused on narrow, productive distribution and product assortment. But most importantly for them is a brand and a founder that have a proven ability to connect with their consumers and deliver an outstanding product that keeps them coming back. Gersten and Nuñez also gravitate towards founders that view True Beauty Ventures as strategic partners rather than just institutional investors.

The fund plans to make between 10 to 12 investments, and launched in 2020 making investments in Maude, Aquis and K18, Kinship, Feals, and Crown Affair. In 2021, True Beauty Ventures made a second investment in Maude, leading an oversubscribed $5.8 million Series A funding round. The fund kicked off 2022 by leading Moon Juice's recent $7 million Series C funding round.

While other investors closed more deals in 2021, True Beauty Ventures made our cut for the most active investors in beauty based on their participation in the ecosystem of indie brands and founders. Mentorship is engrained in the ethos of this new fund, and given the sector focus, True Beauty Ventures will continue to be an important player in beauty and wellness deal flow.

LOOKING FORWARD 2022

Deal flow continues at historic rates. The BeautyMatter Deal Index has already tracked 44 deals across the beauty and wellness ecosystem for 2022. Brands that received private equity investments in the last seven years, like Ilia and Tula, are taking advantage of the current market dynamics. On the other end of the spectrum, we're seeing the impact of a tough couple of years with BH Cosmetics filing for bankruptcy and AS Beauty snapping up struggling Color FX. Volatility will continue into 2022, but it’s shaping up to be another active year for investments in the beauty and wellness sector.