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Wellness Is the Hot New M&A Target

As beauty becomes more crowded, investors are eyeing wellness, particularly supplements and women’s health.

Wellness Is the Hot New M&A Target

Wellness M&A heats up.

Wellness is the next frontier for beauty investors.

After Unilever snapped up Nutrafol at a supposed $1 billion valuation and Compass Diversified acquired The Honey Pot Co. in a deal with an enterprise value of $380 million, investors are looking for the next opportunities in the category.

The reason? The traditional beauty market has become saturated and exponentially competitive, while the convergence of beauty and wellness is piquing investor interest. In particular, they are said to be eyeing supplements and women’s health at a pace not seen before.

“There’s huge opportunity for M&A in the category,” said Eliza Becker, vice president at VMG Partners, whose portfolio includes Goli supplements and Ancient Nutrition powders. 

The trajectory hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands.

“We literally used to get rejections until very recently that were simply because there weren’t enough proven history of exits in the space,” said Nadya Okamoto, founder of period care brand August. “Exits, like we’ve seen with The Honey Pot and Knix, support the overall industry.…We’re able to take that to potential investors and say, ‘This is what multiples have looked like in the space.’” 

As for who’s interested, from an acquisition point of view, traditional strategics are on the lookout — as always, including Unilever, which appointed Priya Nair as president of its beauty and well-being division uniting key pillars, encompassing hair care, skin care, prestige beauty, and health and well-being. This follows several key acquisitions over the past several years in the supplement category, such as Nutrafol, Olly, Liquid I.V. and SmartyPants Vitamins.

There are newish players on the hunt, too. The recent pharmaceutical spin offs, like Haleon from GSK and Kenvue from Johnson & Johnson, are expected to play a key role, and private equity is also understood to be actively pursuing the category.

Then there are international strategics, particularly those based in Asia, who want a deeper footprint in the U.S. market, as well as players out of the left field. Take New York-based Forum Brands, a one time Amazon aggregator, which bought Lola, a period care brand, in January 2024.

“Both strategic and private equity investors are actively participating in the category, but we are seeing a lot of private equity activity given early stage growth, consolidation and services components to many of these businesses,” said Sasha Radic, managing director at Jefferies. 

For private equity, the scalability of some of these brands is incredibly attractive.

Lisa Wu, partner at Norwest Venture Partners, which has invested in supplement brand Ritual, said: “[Buyers are] looking for brand. They’re looking for scale. They’re looking for recurring and resilient demand.” 

When it comes to hot targets, supplements and women’s health, which both drive repeat purchases, are at the top of investors’ wish lists.

Ritual, which taps heavily into women’s health and has raised $65 million to date, is understood to be garnering interest and could be ripe for purchase. The brand is available at Target and Whole Foods and has formulas for many of the top concerns identified across women’s health, including pre- and post-natal.

Similarly, Seed, a microbiome health company known for its DS-01 Daily Synbiotic ingestible, is said to be in the market with Jefferies managing the deal, though both parties declined to comment. According to sources, the gut health arena, which Seed plays in, is going to be of particular interest going forward. A report from Mintel predicts that the U.S. digestive health market will reach $6.5 billion by 2027.

Other supplement names to watch include the adaptogenic beauty and wellness company Moon Juice and vitamin line Hum Nutrition, both of which have secured funding in the past and have significant retail footprints.

Concurrently, women’s health has become especially buzzy, as brands are aiming to close the research gap in the category. According to McKinsey, investments that address the gap in women’s health “could boost the global economy by at least $1 trillion annually by 2040.” The category is inherently broad, though hot areas at the moment include period care, vaginal health, fertility solutions and maternal and pre- and post-natal offerings.

According to sources, it’s early days, but potential targets in the future include cycle syncing brand Rael, which raised $35 million in 2022; supplement and personal care brand Love Wellness, created by Lo Bosworth and now sold at Target, Walmart and Ulta Beauty, and ingestible women’s health line OPositiv, also available at Target.

In terms of menopause, experts predict an eventual wave of new product innovation, especially as new research comes out, that will expand the category, which has been slow in terms of sales. Additionally, as Millennials age into the category, the discourse will grow in a way that translates to sales. 

“There’s going to be this groundswell of Millennials who are turning 40 and they’re not going to be OK with the status quo, where everyone kind of just suffered in silence, because they are finding more education online to feel empowered,” Wu said. 

Brands like Womaness and Bonafide are dominating the conversation when it comes to menopausal health, while other supplement brands, like OPositiv and Hum Nutrition, are tapping into it with one-off products.

Again, product diversity will be essential, as Bonafide had leading to its $425 million acquisition by Pharmavite. Experts suggest those exploring women’s health more broadly rather than menopause alone could be more successful. 

“In order to build scale, you do want to build a woman’s health platform,” Wu said. 

There’s also sexual wellness and while the conversation around this category is ramping up, sales have been a bit slower. 

“Devices are probably less interesting because that’s a one time sale,” said Jeffrey Barber, managing director at private equity firm TA. 

Therefore, experts say sexual wellness brands tapping into routine products, like lubricants and supplements, could have a better chance in the market. For example, Maude, one of the most talked about brands in the category, has seen success in retail, particularly at Sephora, with its line of topical products including lubricant and body wash. Other players in the category that have both devices and topicals include Smile Makers and Dame.

Whatever category they choose, one thing is certain: investors are starting to make early bets on the overall sector’s future.

“There’s going to be this one seminal moment where all of a sudden, these categories are massive in the span of two or three years….It takes a long time to build categories,” Becker said.

But as the wellness market grows and investors become increasingly interested in the category, brands will have to stand out, most notably through scientific evidence per experts.

“Strategics want to see the clinical trials on the actual products in order to show differentiation,” said Wu, adding that efficacy will be the key element for both consumers and investors.

Tags

  • acquisition
  • investment
  • Merger
  • sales growth

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