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Thursday 30 June 2022

“The world’s our oyster” – Natural Pet Food’s Neil Hinton on KKR deal

14th May 2021 By Monique Steele | | @foodtickernz

Natural Pet Food Group’s takeover by global investment firm KKR is going to be a “game-changer” for the Christchurch-based business, according to the food firm’s chief executive, Neil Hinton.

Speaking to the Ticker after the deal for an undisclosed sum was confirmed on 3 May, Hinton said the New York-headquartered investor would drive the 15-year old company’s expansion both in New Zealand and internationally.

Neil Hinton

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us. The world’s our oyster,” Hinton said.

Natural Pet Food produced three brands of wet and dry food for animals: K9 Natural, Feline Natural, and Meat Mates. All products were grain-, gluten- and GMO-free, formulated by the company’s in-house nutritional team.

It focused most of its business in export markets, which made up around 95% of revenue. These included Australia, China, Japan, US and Canada, and the company was now exploring export opportunities in South East Asia and South America.

“We definitely want to go deeper in our existing markets and expand into new markets,” Hinton said. “KKR is a game-changer for us. We’re already tapping into their networks around the world.”

Hinton said pet ownership was rising and consumers wanted high-nutritional value feed for their beloved fur-friends.

“These trends support really long-term, sustained revenue growth and they are things that are attractive [to investors]. We’re in a really good place as to where our products sit in the premium pet food market.”

Hinton said the KKR deal also meant investment into expanding the supply chain and manufacturing processes in New Zealand, which would create more job opportunities and increase sales here at home. At present, only Meat Mates products could be bought in New Zealand at retailers such as Countdown and New World.

Keeping the company’s team in place was also a “key clause” in the deal with KKR, who Hinton said were up against strong competition to buy the business after it was put up for sale through PwC in November last year by majority owner, private equity firm Pioneer Capital.

“We will remain New Zealand-centred. It’s an opportunity for us to gain export dollars by building our operations here. We’re an export business, but we can do a better job here in New Zealand.”

Michael Robson, managing director of KKR’s portfolio operations division, KKR Capstone, will join Natural Pet Food Group’s board of directors.

The company’s shareholders, which included 76.68% owner Pioneer Capital, were all bought out by KKR’s New Zealand-registered Gold Nature IV vehicle, controlled by the investor’s Asian business.



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