Susie-WillisDarwin Private Equity (“Darwin”) has completed its third transaction, with the acquisition of the organic baby food business Plum Baby Limited (“Plum”) for £10 million.

Plum is a leading premium organic baby food company which has revolutionised the baby food market. Launched in 2006 by Susie Willis, former chef and mum of three, Plum has pioneered the premium baby food sector in the UK and has witnessed dramatic year on year growth – it is on track to achieve retail turnover of £15 million in 2010. Its award winning range of over 50 products, created with the ethos of ‘real food for babies, not just baby food’, is distributed in most major supermarkets and includes baby food puree pots, purees in pouches, baby cereals, fromage frais, baby biscuits and snacks.

The acquisition by Darwin comes at an exciting time in the development of Plum as the business is transitioning from an early stage entrepreneurial operation into a professional consumer branded business. Darwin’s experience of growing UK consumer brands, working alongside talented entrepreneurs, will help the Company continue this transition and transform it into a major player in the UK baby food market whilst at the same time retaining its entrepreneurial roots and flair for innovation.

Founder Susie Willis will remain in the business as Creative Director, while CEO Patrick Cairns has decided to leave the business on completion of the deal. He will be replaced as Chief Executive by Paul Kaye. Paul is an experienced manager in the food sector having worked at Dairy Crest, Northern Foods, HJ Heinz UK and Mars Inc. (Masterfoods). He brings a wealth of experience in the branded food sector and his knowledge, support and leadership will be invaluable in driving the business forward over its next phase of growth. The rest of the management team will remain in place.

Susie Willis commenting on the sale said: “It was clear from the first meeting that Darwin shared our passion and vision for the business. We are looking forward to working with them to realise the full potential of the business building on the significant contribution that Patrick Cairns and the team have made over the past few years.”

Jonathan Kaye, partner of Darwin Private Equity, commented: “Plum is a very strong brand. Susie and the team have done an excellent job to get the business to where it is today. We believe Plum has significant growth potential and we plan to invest heavily in the business to build upon its market position.”

In 2007, Plum attracted investment from Venture Capital Trusts, now held by Beringea, Octopus and Foresight. All of these investors will exit on sale to Darwin. Advisers to Plum were Spayne Lindsay LLP. PricewaterhouseCoopers advised Darwin and were also the reporting accountants.

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